The increasing use of silver-based products as antimicrobial agents: a useful development or a cause for concern?

J Antimicrob Chemother. 2007 Apr;59(4):587-90. doi: 10.1093/jac/dkm006. Epub 2007 Feb 16.


Silver first gained regulatory approval for use as an antimicrobial agent in the early 20th century, but its usage diminished with the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s. Recently, however, topical silver has gained popularity once again, principally in the management of open wounds. This has been largely due to the spread of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and the resultant reduction in first-line antibiotic prescribing. The increase in the use of topical silver has raised issues concerning silver resistance, together with questions about the standardization of antimicrobial testing methods for silver. Issues related to silver product testing include a failure to establish standard procedures for determining MIC values, an absence of recognized breakpoints, a lack of conformity in the way different products release silver and variations in the effects of microbiological media on silver release and the measurement of inhibitory activity. The clinical incidence of silver resistance remains low, and emergence of resistance can be minimized if the level of silver ions released from products is high and the bactericidal activity rapid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / chemistry*
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial
  • Humans
  • Infections / drug therapy
  • Infections / microbiology
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Silver Compounds / chemistry*
  • Silver Compounds / pharmacology*


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Silver Compounds