Use of nanosilver should be limited – report

21st of April 2017
Use of nanosilver should be limited – report

Alarm bells should be ringing about the increasing use of nanosilver to create antimicrobial products, claim researchers at Sydney's University of Technology.

They warn that the presence of nanosilver - which is used to coat medical items such as wound dressings and catheters - has the potential to cause antimicrobial resistance.

Besides its use in the healthcare sector, nanosilver is increasingly being employed in everyday items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, baby bottles, bedding, clothing and household appliances.

University of Technology Sydney nanobiologist Dr Cindy Gunawan says alarm bells should be ringing at the commercialisation of nanosilver use because of a "real threat" that resistance to nanosilver will develop and spread through microorganisms in the human body and the environment.

"Nanosilver is a proven antimicrobial agent whose reliability is being jeopardised by the commercialisation of people's fear of bacteria," she said. "Our use of it needs to be far more judicious, in the same way that we need to approach antibiotic usage. Nanosilver is a useful tool but we need to be careful, use it wisely and only when the benefit outweighs the risk."

Dr Gunawan and her team investigated more than 140 commercially-available medical devices including wound dressings and tracheal and urinary catheters. They also looked at dietary supplements promoted as immunity boosters and taken via a throat or nasal spray.

The team concluded that the use of nanosilver in these items could lead to prolonged exposure to bioactive silver in the human body which could create the conditions for microbial resistance. Dr Gunawan claims that a targeted surveillance strategy needs to be employed to monitor for any occurrence of resistance.


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