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May 192015

Panorama investigates the global advance of antibiotic-resistant superbugs and the threat they pose to modern medicine and millions of patients worldwide.

Watch the BBC programme on Panorama with the BBC iPlayer.

Antibiotic Apocalypse


May 182015

Colloidal Nanosilver and Silver Ions

Antimicrobial biocides are commonly used to prevent the growth of bacteria on surfaces and within materials and are typically added in small quantities to make it more difficult for bacteria to grow on the treated object.
Inorganic active agents such as silver and copper are typically used, and silver has found a growing presence in many appications due to a desire to move away from organic chemical agents. Examples in the use of silver are water filters for household use, and pool algicides.
As the size of silver metal is decreased from bulk to micrometer-sized particles through to nanosized particles, the potential for releasing silver ions increases because of increasing surface availability.
Inventors of nanosilver formulations have known for some time (approx. 120 years) that the viability of the technology required nanoscale silver. The following statement from a patent published in 1868 (1) illustrates this point:

for proper efficiency, the silver must be dispersed as particles of colloidal size less than 250 Å [less than 25 nm]

This long history of rational fabrication and use of colloidal nanosilver has resulted in a lot of research and knowledge about these nanoparticles over the last 100 years (2).


(1). Manes, M. Silver impregnated carbon, United States Patent 3,374,608, 1968

(2). Nowack, N., Krug, H.F., Height, M., 120 Years of Nanosilver History: Implications for Policy Makers, Environmental Science and Technology,  1177-1183, 2011


Mar 252015

In Europe and the United States, antimicrobial resistance causes at least 50,000 deaths each year according to a report published recently.

The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance

The Review has published its first paper, Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling a Crisis for the Health and Wealth of Nations which sets out the global threat of not tackling AMR. The paper was published on December 11 2014 (1).

Jim O’Neill, Chairman of the Review on AMR, said:

“Drug-resistant infections already kill hundreds of thousands a year globally, and by 2050 that figure could be more than 10 million. The economic cost will also be significant, with the world economy being hit by up to $100 trillion by 2050 if we do not take action.”

Reacting to this report, Nick Stern, President of the British Academy, IG Patel Professor of Economics and Government at the LSE and former Chief Economist of the World Bank, said:

“Wise policy looks ahead and tries to manage risks, particularly the big ones. There can be no doubt now that antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest that we, all of us, face. The work of the group led by Jim O’Neill is of profound importance and this paper shows very convincingly the great scale of the risks, in terms of human lives and the economy, that are posed by this deeply worrying phenomenon.”

The Review set out its initial reccomendations on February 5th 2015, in the paper Tackling a global health crisis: Initial steps. This paper was used to set out the assessment of the international AMR research funding landscape, and make first recommendations for global action to address the challenges of rising drug resistance. This includes the establishment of a global AMR Innovation Fund; steps to help maintain the effectiveness of existing antibiotics; and action to address an emerging skills shortage in this crucial field of research (2).

1. Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling a Crisis for the Health and Wealth of Nations

2. Antimicrobial Resistance: Initial Steps

May 062014

Over the past 90 years, antibacterial discovery has gone from boom to bust. For about 30 years in the middle of the 20th century, pharmaceutical companies regularly churned out new classes of the drugs, many of which doctors still use today, such as penicillin and the tetracyclines. However, by the 1980’s, discovery slowed and companies started leaving the field, drawn by the rise of profitable drugs in other therapeutic areas. As a result, only one successful new class of antibacterial drugs has been discovered since the late 1980’s (bedaquiline). This is the story of the Rise and Fall of Antibiotics.

With growing numbers of bacterial strains resistant to existing drugs, pharmaceutical experts have been at a loss to know what to do.

The success of early antibiotics saved many lives. It was reported in 1951 for example, thanks to drug treatment, the pneumonia mortality rate dropped by 50% in the previous decade.

The antibacterial development boom started after the discovery in 1943 of streptomycin, the first antibiotic to treat tuberculosis. Albert Schatz and his supervisor Selman A. Waksman, found the compound in Streptomyces bacteria. Streptomyces lives in soil, and soon pharmaceutical companies in the U.S., Europe and Japan started screening soil microbes.

These companies were tapping into a microbial war that had been going on for many centuries in the soil.

In a typical screening program, company microbiologists would obtain soil samples from across the globe. When soil samples came in, the microbiologists would first isolate the many different microbes present and then grow them separately in liquid cultures. The resulting broths were tested to see whether they could stop the growth of a particular pathogen, such as Staphylococcus aureus or Escherichia coli. If they did, then the real work began of isolating the active molecule.

From the 1940’s to the 1960’s, companies improved this method and discovered about 20 major antibacterial classes, including the tetracyclines, the macrolides and the glycopeptide vancomycin.

As scientists studied the major classes, they found how the antibacterials worked. The β-lactams, such as penicillin and cephalosporin, inhibited cell wall synthesis. Tetracyclines, macrolides, and aminoglycosides affect protein synthesis. and the quinolones disrupted DNA replication.

Medicinal chemists played a significant role in the boom by developing antibiotics with improved properties. Beecham Research Laboratories, an English Company that became part of GSK, produced several important derivatives of penicillin. An example was methicillin, developed in 1959, had a 2,6-dimethoxyphenyl side chain which shielded the compound from some some β-lactamases, the enzymes that enable bacteria to resist penicillin.

Discoveries of new classes started to taper off during the 1970’s. Companies started to see diminishing returns from their screening programmes. In the 1950’s, companies had to screen through around 1000 bacterial cultures to find a compound no one had seen before. To find Daptomycin, which was discovered in 1987, and is one of the last new classes to reach the market, scientists had to pick through about 10 million cultures. The rise and fall of antibiotics was upon us.

In the late 1990’s, the industry tried to improve antibacterial discovery by turning to genomics. When the genome of Haemophilus influenzae was publicized in 1995, companies such as GSPK thought they could find new drugs by searching for genes essential for bacterial survival in multiple species. Then by using in vitro assays, they screened for compounds that inhibit the activity of associated proteins.

The strategy failed for multiple reasons.

See the complete article at EzineArticles:

Robert Bows, EzineArticles Basic Author

Jan 282014

Silver has been known for its ability to purify drinking water for at least 2000 years, but silver as an antibiotic has become evident in the past 100 years or so following discoveries in microbiology when Loius Pasteur and Robert Koch conducted fundamental research on the concepts of infection and transmission of disease.

Robert Koch established  his principles of disease when he first diagnosed anthrax as a fatal infection in human patients and proved that it as caused by an ‘organic’ pathogen. Subsequent research by Pasteur and Koch in 1876-1877 on anthrax, and transfer of Bacillus anthrasis can be regarded as the starting point of modern pathogenic bacteriology.

It is not clear when the antibiotic properties of metallic silver were first recognized, but reviews of silver in healthcare commonly refer to silver vessels being used to transport drinking water for the monarchs of ancient Babylon, Rome and the Persian Empires. Records from the 14th century suggest that the value of silver in surgery as a means of alleviating disease was appreciated (1)

Ambrose Paré (1510-1590) was a perdiatric surgeon who attended the gunshot wounds of Henry II of France, and who pioneered silver clips and instruments in surgery and for life threatening conditions. Later surgeons such as John Woodall (1617) , surgeon general of the East India Company, also claimed that silver clips, silver instruments, silver nitrate and silver foil reduced the incidence of infections (2).

At the turn of the 20th century, metal salts including copper, lead, arsenic, bismuth, antimony, mercury and silver were commonly used to control bacterial and fungal infections (3). Mercury and Silver ions were most effective and provided greatest antibacterial action at a concentration of one part per million (ppm) (4). The term ‘oligodynamic’ coined by the German botanist Karl von Nägeli to describe the ability of micro-organisms to selectively absorb metal ions from dilute solutions (5) was used by pharmacologists at the time to denote high antibiotic efficacy of low concentrations of these metal ions. He was first to recognize that the bactericidal concentrations of silver solutions were related to the amount of free Ag+ within a system (6). Silver proteins of varying strengths were developed ni the early 20th century as an alternative to silver nitrate, although the colloidal form of metallic silver was thought by Dr. Henry Crookes to have profound germicidal action:

“certain metals in a colloidal state exhibit profound germicidal action, but are quite harmless to human beings. There is no microbe known that is not killed by colloidal silver in laboratory tests within six minutes”. (7)

Henry Crookes produced silver colloids which were patented before the outbreak of WW1, and his company Crookes Laboratories eventually became Crookes Healthcare in the 1960’s. In 1971 the successful pharmaceutical business was bought by Boots, which used ‘Crookes’ as a label for marketing brand names such as Nurofen, Strepsils and Optrex. (8)


1. D. G. Brater and W. J. Daly, Clinical Pharmacology in the Middle Ages: principles that presage the 21st century, Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics., 2000, 67, 447.

2. A. B. G. Lansdown, Pin and needle tract infections: the prophylactic role of silver, Wounds UK, 2006, 2, 4, 51

3. T. Solleman, Silver, in A Manual of Pharmacology and its Applications to Therapeutics and Toxicology, Saunders, Philadelphia, 1942, pp. 1102-1109

4. B. D. Davis, Principles of sterilization, in Bacterial and Mycotic Infections of Man, ed. R. J. Dubois, Lippincott, Philadelphia, 1952, pp. 707-725.

5. K. W. von Nägeli, Leben die oligodynamischen Erscheinungen an lebenden Zellen, Denkschr. Schweiz. Naturforsch. Ges. 1893, 33, 174

6. R. E. Burrell, A scientific perspective on the use of topical silver preparations, Ostomy Wound Management, 2003, 49 (Suppl.), 19

7. H. Crookes, Use of Colloidal Silver, London, 1910

8. W. H. Brock, Case of the Poisonous SocksRSC Publishing, 2011

9. WikiPedia, Scitronhealing


Nov 202013

Nanosize inorganic particles display unique physical and chemical properties and represent an increasingly important material in their use as biological and biomedical applications. Resistant strains of bacteria to bactericides and antibiotics has increased in recent years due to the development of resistant strains. Some pharmaceutical antimicrobial agents are extremely irritant and toxic and there is much interest in finding ways to formulate new types of safe and cost-effective biocidal materials. Previous studies have shown that antimicrobial formulations in the form of nanopaticles could be effective bactericidal materials.

It is well known that silver ions and silver based compounds are highly toxic to micro-organisms (1)(2), while the antibacterial activity of nontoxic elementary silver, in the form of nanoparticles, has not been so well reported in the scientific literature (3), although preparations of nanoparticles using electrolysis to produce colloidal silver have been used for 120 years (4).


1. G.J. Zhao, S.E. Stevens, Biometals 11 (1998) 27

2. J.A. Spadaro, T.J. Berger, S.D. Barranco, S.E. Chapin, R.O. Becker, “Antifungal Properties of Electrically Generated Metallic Ions”  Microbial Agents and Chemotherapy 6 (1974) 637

3. I. Sondi, B. Salopek-Sondi, “Silver nanoparticles as antimicrobial agent: a case study on E. Coli as a model for Gram-negative bacteria” Journal of Colloid and Interface Science 275 (2004) 177-182

4. B. Nowack, H.F. Krug,  M. Height,  “120 Years of Nanosilver History: Implications for Policy Makers” Environmental Science and Technology 45 (4) (2011) 1177-1183

Oct 302013

MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. S. aureus is a small sphere shaped bacterium that causes skin boils, life-threatening pneumonia, and almost untreatable bone infections. It often spreads by skin-to skin contact, shared personal items, and shared surfaces, such as locker room benches. When the microbe finds a break in the skin, it grows and releases toxins. Some sixty years ago, S. aureus was susceptible to many antibiotics, including penicillin. However, the microbe developed resistance to penicillin and the pharmaceutical industry produced increasingly potent antibiotics. These included methicillin, which overcame resistance to penicillin. But in 1960, one year after the introduction of methicillin, MRSA was found again in the United States. The resistant bacterium spread through hospitals, so that surgical procedures  became more dangerous. MRSA also caused pneumonia, commonly following influenza. Antibiotic resistance silver nanoparticles and MRSA:

Community-based MRSA (CA-MRSA)

Community associated MRSA, or CA-MRSA, is different from hospital-associated MRSA (HA-MRSA). Many community-associated S. aureus strains are members of a group called USA300, which accounts for half of the CA-MRSA infections. The strain causes flesh-eating skin infection, pneumonia, and muscle infection. In 2005, MRSA accounted for more than 7 million cases of skin and soft tissue infection in outpatient departments in U.S. hospitals. (1)

As expected, CA-MRSA strains are moving into hospitals. In a survey of US hospitals taken from 1999 to 2006, the fraction of S. aureus that was resistant to methicillin increased 90%, almost entirely due to CA-MRSA. (2)

Many infections tend to occur in persons having weakened immune systems, but MRSA can infect anyone. For example, healthy young adults tend to be susceptible to a lethal combination of influenza and MRSA pneumonia.

HA-MRSA has been a problem in hospitals for years and in many countries it is getting worse. In the United States, MRSA rose from 22% of the S. aureus infections in 1995 to 63% in 2007. From 2000-2005, MRSA helped double the number of antibiotic-resistant infections in U.S. hospitals, which reached almost a million per year. In the United States, more people now die each year from MRSA than from AIDS.

Antibiotic Resistance Silver Nanoparticles

Silver has acquired a worldwide acceptance as a broad spectrum antibiotic. Laboratory and clinical studies have shown it to be safe in long-term use and effective in controlling most pathogenic bacteria, fungi, and parasitic infections including the methicillin-resistant strains of S. aureus (MRSA). (4)


1.   Hersh, A., Chambers, H., Maselli, J., Gonzales, R. “National Trends in Ambulatory Visits and Antibiotic Prescribing for Skin and Soft-Tissue Infections” Archives of Internal Medicine 2008; 168:1585-1591

2.   Klein, E., Smith, D., Laxminarayan, R. “Community-Associated Methicillin-Resistant  Staphylococcus aureus in OutpatientsUnited States, 1999-2006.” Emerging Infectious Diseases 2009; 15(12): 1925-1930

3.   Klein, E., Smith, D., Laxminarayan, R. “Hospitalizations and Deaths Caused by Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus, United States, 1999-2005.” Emerging Infectious Diseases 2007; 13(12): 1840-1846

4.   Lansdown, Alan, B., G,. “Silver in Medical Devices” Silver in Healthcare, Its Antimicrobial Efficacy and Safety in Use, Royal Society of Chemistry Publishing, 2010

Oct 022013

Colloidal Silver MRSA

Silver really COULD be the new weapon against superbugs: Adding it to antibiotics boosts the effectiveness by 1,000 times
Silver could be used to help fight antibiotic resistance
Can make bugs which are antibiotic resistant treatable
Works by making bacteria more ‘leaky’, allowing antibiotics to get inside them and kill them
Britain’s top doctor says the rise of drug-resistant superbugs could trigger an ‘apocalyptic scenario’
PUBLISHED: 19:03, 19 June 2013 | UPDATED: 19:03, 19 June 2013

Silver could be a precious weapon in the fight against antibiotic resistance.
Scientists have shown that giving tiny amounts of silver at the same time as antibiotics makes the drugs up to a thousand times more effective, making colloidal silver MRSA effective.
The finding comes in the wake of warnings by Britain’s top doctor that the rise of drug-resistant superbugs could trigger an ‘apocalyptic scenario’ in which even routine operations such as hip surgery become deadly because we have run out of antibiotics.
Giving tiny amounts of silver at the same time as antibiotics makes the drugs up to a thousand times more effective.

Professor Dame Sally Davies said that unless urgent action is taken, the ‘ticking timebomb’ of growing antibiotic resistance could leave millions vulnerable to untreatable bugs within a generation.
U.S. researcher Dr Jim Collins said: ‘The number of antibiotic resistant strains in our hospitals and communities is growing and is growing dramatically and has been for some time.
‘And this development is accompanied by a drop in new antibiotics being developed and approved.

‘We are taking a different approach. Instead of trying to develop a completely new antibiotic, we are trying to enhance the ones we already have.’
In experiments on mice, the Boston University researchers found that giving silver with antibiotics made them between ten and a thousand times better at fighting infections.
In some cases, bugs classed as antibiotic resistant became treatable.

Britain’s top doctor warned the rise of drug-resistant superbugs  could trigger an ‘apocalyptic scenario’ in which routine operations become deadly.
Silver has long been known to have anti-bacterial properties.
The experiments suggest it will be safe to use it in very small amounts with existing antibiotics.
The drugs could be laced with silver or covered in a fine coating of the precious metal and used to tackle dangerous stomach bugs, urinary tract infections or hard-to-treat films of bacteria that coat catheters.
The research, detailed in the journal Science Translational Medicine, also worked out how silver helps kill bugs.
The metal makes bacteria more ‘leaky’, allowing antibiotics to get inside them and kill them.
Plus, it boosts production of dangerous oxygen molecules that aid and abet the death.

colloidal silver mrsa

Colloidal Silver in the fight against MRSA

Colloidal silver MRSA and the fight against superbugs. Read more:

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Sep 272013

We are all exposed to pathogens, which are tiny microbes and viruses that cause infectious disease. Some pathogens are harmless inhabitants of our bodies most of the time. Common features of pathogens are firstly their microscopic size, and secondly the huge numbers their populations can reach during infection. To treat these infections, pharmaceutical companies have developed antibiotics, which are chemicals that interfere with the life processes of pathogens. As a natural response, these populations develop antibiotic resistant bacteria – this is a condition where the antibiotic fails to harm the pathogen enough to cure the disease. Within a large pathogen population, a tiny fraction is natually resistant to the antibiotic, through spontaneous changes or by acquiring resistance genes from other microbes. The problem here is that antibiotic treatment kills the growth of the major part of the microbial population – this then favours the growth of resistant mutants!

Prolonged use of a particular antibiotic means that the bulk of the pathogen population are composed of resistant cells, so that subsequent treatment with the same antibiotic does little good. If now the resultant organisms spread to other people, the resulting infections are resistant before treatment. Development of resistance is accelerated by the mutagenic action of some antibiotics and by the movement of resistance genes from one microbe species to another. Also, excessive, inappropriate use of antibiotics contributes to the delopment of resistance.

Aug 312013

Silver accounts for possibly 0.1 ppm in the Earth’s crust and around 0.3 ppm in soils. It occurs in deposits of pure metal in the form of two isotopes, 107Ag and 109Ag, which occur in similar proportions, although a total of 35 isotopes are known.

It is not known precisely when silver was first discovered, but slag dumps in Asia Minor suggest that man learned to separate silver from lead as early as 3000BC. The ancient Egyptians may have worked in silver at that time, but the metal they used may have been mined in Turkey. A silver dish recovered from the Chaldean Empire dates back to ca.2850 BC, and is now exhibited in the Louvre in Paris. This may be the first tangible evidence of the use of silver in healthcare