Adding Silver to Antibiotics May Increase Their Effectiveness

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria develop immunity to antibiotics. New research in mice indicates that adding silver to antibiotics may boost the drugs’ effectiveness.


As worries about antibiotic resistance become more common medical conversations, scientists look to wider areas for solutions. Although natural health proponents worldwide have long used silver to treat bacterial infections, the latest research has paired this age-old remedy with modern antibiotics.

Research indicates that silver is beneficial in combating Gram-negative bacteria. Gram-negative bacteria are one of the two main types of bacteria and are often difficult to treat. In this study, they noted that silver helps disrupt this type of bacteria, helping clear the path for antibiotics and improving their effectiveness.

The science team used mice to understand more clearly how silver and silver combined with antibiotics “can be harnessed to potentiate antibiotic activity.” Lead researcher Jose Ruben Morones-Ramirez stated that increasing antibiotic resistance made this type of scientific investigation more important than ever: “A declining pipeline of clinically useful antibiotics has made it imperative to develop more effective microbial therapies.” He clarified that although they didn’t know what component in silver makes it effective they confirmed that it “disrupts multiple bacterial cellular processes.”

This discovery, Morones-Ramirez said, “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.”

Future research will look to see whether there is a similar outcome in human test subjects. But what if silver alone would be as effective without the antibiotics side effects.

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Reference: Morones-Ramirez, J.R., Winkler, J.A., Spina, C.S., Collins, J.J. (2013) Silver Enhances Antibiotic Activity Against Gram-Negative Bacteria. Science Translational Medicine. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3006276