How serious is the oft repeated assertion by medical pundits that mankind is running out of option as far as antibiotics' effectiveness is concerned? If the increasing antibiotic resistance exhibited by some of the deadliest of pathogens reported all over the world is any indication there could be many diseases that will not respond to traditional antibiotic therapy and a disaster of Himalayan magnitude is waiting to happen!. Though there could be many reasons for such a situation developing during the last three decades, the single most critical cause is the indiscriminate use of broad spectrum antibiotics whether they are needed or not. Many physicians consider antibiotics as a magic bullet that is a "cure for all" without diagnosing the real culprit agent that has caused the fever or other symptoms of their patients. Added to this is the wide scale reported use of antibiotics by the livestock and poultry industries for accelerated growth of animals, a use not originally attributed to these savior of humans and naturally the products of this industry will have antibiotics that gain access to human body day in and day out! Pathogens thus exposed to tiny doses of antibiotics evolve into super bugs that can over come the effect of the antibiotics over a period of time. Those which survive, as per the theory of evolution will be the fittest capable of withstanding the action of antibiotics. Since development of new antibiotics lag behind, the pace of resistance development by many pathogens to existing array of antibiotics is growing pretty fast. Recent reports that silver ion can boost the effectiveness of existing antibiotics are truly significant with far reaching implications for the future of mankind. Here is a take on this new development.
"Silver has been used as an antimicrobial for centuries, but little has been known about how it works. The new research suggests adding it to existing antibiotics could counteract the rise of drug-resistant microbes. Experiments in mice showed the metal disrupts the biological processes of bacteria, making them more permeable to antibiotics, a US team reports. Bacteria are adapting and finding ways to survive the effects of antibiotics. According to England's chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at a rate that is both alarming and irreversible. Silver acts against Gram-negative bacteria - one of the two main types of bacteria - which are particularly difficult pathogens to treat".
Silver has been known since long as a protective agent in sterilizing water as it exerts a deleterious effect on most bacteria. No wonder silverware is increasingly being used for storing and consuming foods as small traces leached into the food are supposed to keep many dangerous bacteria out. Though it is empirically known that silver does have antibacterial properties, the exact mechanism of action is not yet clearly understood. But the above study gives a glimpse into the same and it is suggested that silver ion somehow makes the cell membranes more permeable to antibiotics to enter into the cell and disrupt the biological processes going on inside. What is amazing is that a small addition of silver amplifies the action of antibiotics several fold and this can result in the use of lesser concentrations of antibiotics in future formulations. Some of the most serious bacteria come from the gram negative group which include Helicobacter, E.coli, Shigella, Salmonella, Enterobacteriaceae, Psuedomonas, Moraxella, bacteria causing Gonorrhea, meningitis and Pneumonia. The discovery of the complimentary effect of silver is all the more significant because as per the claim of the authors the bacteria can never develop resistance to silver though only time will tell whether it is so. Nonetheless the above development is as significant as the discovery of Penicillin in 1928 by Alexander Fleming.