New research shows that low doses of silver can massively boost the effect of antibiotics on bacteria, making them up to 1,000 times more sensitive to the drugs. The researchers hope their discovery will give new life to old antibiotics, including those to which microbes have become resistant.
A team lead by Jim Collins, a biomedical engineer at Boston University, showed that dissolved silver ions interfere with several cellular processes in bacteria, including disulfide-bond formation, iron homeostasis, and metabolism. These changes not only make the cell membrane more permeable, but also lead to increased production of reactive oxygen species, which can induce cell death via DNA damage.
"This work shows that silver can be used to enhance the action of existing antibiotics against Gram-negative bacteria, thus strengthening the antibiotic arsenal for fighting bacterial infections." - Dr. Jim Collins, co-author of the study
When Collins and his colleagues supplemented antibiotics with a small amount of silver, both in vitro and in a mouse model of a urinary tract infection, the combination killed up to 1,000 times more bacteria than the antibiotics did on their own. In addition, the researchers showed that silver sensitizes Gram-negative bacteria to vancomycin, a large-molecule antibiotic that usually can't breach the outer coating on the bacterial cell membranes.
Protect your patients and your practice.