A Silver Bullet for Antibiotic Resistance
Bacterial resistance is poised to become one of the great health crises of the 21st century, which is why I tend to give the issue so many column inches in this space. Resistance is an especially pressing problem for the ENT community because we are disproportionately guilty of overprescribing antibiotics for symptoms that don’t require such powerful medications.
But there may be some good news on the horizon. The journal Nature recently reported that elemental silver, the same stuff you likely have in your jewelry at home, may be extraordinarily effective at boosting the effectiveness of antibiotics:
Many antibiotics are thought to kill their targets by producing reactive oxygen compounds, and Collins and his team showed that when boosted with a small amount of silver these drugs could kill between 10 and 1,000 times as many bacteria. The increased membrane permeability also allows more antibiotics to enter the bacterial cells, which may overwhelm the resistance mechanisms that rely on shuttling the drug back out.
There are caveats, of course. Silver itself carries a certain level of toxicity in humans, and may be especially dangerous to certain tissue types. Side effects can include a curious syndrome known as argyria which can result in permanent greying of the skin.
Still, this is promising news, and a nice full-circle treatise on the benefits of an element that has been suspected of providing medicinal firepower for many thousands of years.