Silver has been used as an antimicrobial agent for centuries and is a well established method for killing bacteria. It kills a broad spectrum of bacteria including hospital ‘superbugs’ and this has led in recent years to the development of novel silver-based wound dressings to aim to treat difficult to heal wounds in hospitals and care homes.
A microbial community (biofilm) on a medical device
Often, the concentrations of silver and the impregnation methods utilised to construct such dressings serve to make the devices very expensive. My research, entitled ‘structure-function relations in novel antibacterial silver nanoparticles’ was carried at the University of York, funded by Smith & Nephew plc. I focussed on the relationship between the physico-chemical properties and antimicrobial effectiveness to understand and develop innovative silver nanoparticles, capable of killing bacteria effectively.
Using a variety of synthesised amorphous and mesoporous chemical supports, different sizes of silver nanoparticles could be grown on these structures and could be tuned to boost efficacy. A range of surface and bulk techniques were been employed to elucidate phase, size and dissolution profile, for example. Although my PhD was in chemistry, I am also a fully trained microbiologist so I carried out all my own microbial testing.
The most active powder samples were impregnated into polyurethane foams. These are potentially cheap to produce and are highly antimicrobially active. I could seriously talk all day about this. But I won’t. If you want to read more about my research, these couple of papers are a good starting point
http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2008/CC/b809086f With free additional info here http://www.rsc.org/suppdata/cc/b8/b809086f/b809086f.pdf
http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2010/JM/c0jm01500h With free additional info here http://www.rsc.org/suppdata/jm/c0/c0jm01500h/c0jm01500h.pdf
Or this short article sums it up nicely…