Silver in Healthcare

Significant advances have been made in the use of silver in healthcare and its compounds in medicinal science and surgery, including colloidal silver antiviral and antibiotic properties. The Ag+ state has been shown to be of relevance as an antimicrobial agent in medical devices and textiles.

The disinfecting powers of silver nanoparticles may extend back to Babylonian times. Silver containers were used to transport water for the personal use of the Kings of Persia. The first tangible evidence of the use of silver in water purification comes from the discovery of a silver salver from the Chaldean Empire. (ca. 2850 BC, which is now exhibited in the Louvre in Paris). Early civilizations discovered that water preserved in silver vessels remained much purer and more acceptable for drinking than in earthenware pitchers. Silver is still extensively used in water purification today. For example hot water systems in hospitals use copper-silver filters as a protection against Legionella species and MRSA infections.
Silver in healthcare has a long standing value at least since the middle ages. In 1893 Carl von Nägeli, a Swiss botanist, is credited with the discovery that silver inhibits the growth of bacteria at exceedingly low concentrations. This concept has become known as “oligodynamic action”. A vast amount of research has been conducted since then.
Silver has the capacity to absorb (or adsorb) to metallic and non-metallic substances or surfaces. For example in medical devices, without losing its antibiotic properties.

Silver is not inert in the presence of biological materials. It has been established that silver slowly ionizes in the presence of moisture, and releases biologically active Ag+. This ion readily binds to proteins and cell surface receptors on cell membranes.

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