Silver as an antibacterial... why?

I've become aware recently that silver is an increasingly popular antibacterial/antimicrobial. (Actually, my interest was sparked because I was given a pair of silver-infused ski socks, that apparently will prevent odor with fewer washings... hmm...) I have poked around the web looking for an explanation of this, and while I can find extensive information about its uses and new product developments and regulations, etc., I have found almost nothing regarding [i]why[/i] silver kills bacteria.

So, here's my question: [b]regarding its chemistry and basic biology, why does silver kill bacteria?[/b] Any help is GREATLY appreciated!!

Thanks again!

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Ag and Cu are definitely toxic to bacteria; CuSO4 is added to kill cyanobacteria in water supplies (and my tenth-grade biology teacher used copper nails to kill his neighbor's ricepaper tree which was damaging his driveway); Ag is used in silver sulfadiazine (1% in cream) which is the way in which burns are treated to prevent infection and scarring; I would suspect that both interfere somehow with the cellulose membrane which is a feature shared by plants, bacteria, and fungi)

I just checked John Emsley's Building Blocks, which states "the silver ion Ag+ is deadly to both bacteria and viruses" It also mentioned that AgNO3 is regularly given as eyedrops to newborns to prevent blindness cause by bacteria infections. Emsley goes on to say that therapeutic use of silver was formerly limited by the incredible ability of Cl- to precipitate Ag+ and that an excess of Ag+ imparts a grey color to skin, hair and eyes (p. 393) Ah well ...

[quote="Martin17"]I just checked John Emsley's Building Blocks, which states "the silver ion Ag+ is deadly to both bacteria and viruses" It also mentioned that AgNO3 is regularly given as eyedrops to newborns to prevent blindness cause by bacteria infections. Emsley goes on to say that therapeutic use of silver was formerly limited by the incredible ability of Cl- to precipitate Ag+ and that an excess of Ag+ imparts a grey color to skin, hair and eyes (p. 393) Ah well ...[/quote]

However, it seems that silver is so stable that it is impossible to form such compound or ions by just adding a silver layer on the product. Besides, if that's the case, the silver layer will be used up, right?

There is probably an equilibrium between Ag(s) > Ag+ + e so that Ag+ is readily converted to Ag again. This explains why silver spoons don't dissolve in hot tea; that being said, I doubt that a layer of Ag will ward off the avian flu, smallpox, polio, obesity or whatever you are afraid of. The trick that con artists pull is to take a small base of truth and hype it up with exaggerated claims or unfounded applications. I wouldn't run out and buy a silver tea service to extend my life; and though I once was told that Ag vessels were in fact bactericidal and will purify water left longer than five minutes, I still wash my hands before eating even if I've set out the silver dinnerware.

BTW my disposable water purifier has small particles of Ag in it; it is not to kill bacteria but another property of Ag is that it attracts Pb and that is the way water filters remove Pb ions from water; the principal ingredient is charcoal to filter out most of the other stuff. It can't be much because there is no Ag recycling industry for spent water filters like there is for old Xray film.

:)

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It has broght to my concern that how silver works and how effective that people can use it. I had no clue before the day you wrote this message. After a long way I have been through, now I can answer the first question myself, but the second one, I am still working on it. I presume if I can coat nano silver onto the surface of door handles to be used in the hospital, it will dramatically reduce the hospital cross-infection, will it?

I think I can get this area breakthrough.

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