Silver as a disinfectant

Rev Environ Contam Toxicol. 2007:191:23-45. doi: 10.1007/978-0-387-69163-3_2.


Silver has been used as an antimicrobial for thousands of years. Over the past several decades, it has been introduced into numerous new venues such as in the treatment of water, in dietary supplements, in medical applications, and to produce antimicrobial coatings and products. Silver is often used as an alternative disinfectant in applications in which the use of traditional disinfectants such as chlorine may result in the formation of toxic by-products or cause corrosion of surfaces. Silver has also been demonstrated to produce a synergistic effect in combination with several other disinfectants. Many mechanisms of the antibacterial effect of silver have been described, but its antiviral and antiprotozoal mechanisms are not well understood. Both microbial tolerance and resistance to silver have been reported; however, the effect of silver has been observed against a wide variety of microorganisms over a period of years. Further research is needed to determine the antimicrobial efficacy of silver in these new applications and the effects of its long-term usage.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents* / pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Food Contamination
  • Humans
  • Silver* / pharmacology
  • Water Purification
  • Water Supply


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Silver