Prevalence of silver resistance in bacteria isolated from diabetic foot ulcers and efficacy of silver-containing wound dressings

Ostomy Wound Manage. 2008 Mar;54(3):30-40.


Silver dressings are used to manage wounds at risk of infection or locally infected. This in vitro study was conducted to assess the prevalence of silver resistance genes in 112 bacterial isolates obtained from the diabetic foot ulcers of patients attending the Diabetic Foot Clinic at Tameside General Hospital, UK. Using polymerase chain reaction to screen for three silver-resistance transcriptional units--silE, silS and silP--two silver-resistant bacteria were identified; both are strains of Enterobacter cloacae, an organism rarely implicated as a primary pathogen in chronic wounds. No recognized wound pathogens (Staphylococcus aureus-24 isolates and Pseudomonas aeruginosa-nine isolates) were found to contain silver-resistant genes. Analysis of the efficacy of silver-containing dressings on the silver-resistant strains of Enterobacter cloacae using confocal laser microscopy showed that, despite evidence of genetic resistance to silver, all strains were killed following a maximum of 48 hours of exposure to the dressings. Results suggest that presence of silver resistance genes is rare and that genetic resistance does not necessarily translate to phenotypic resistance to silver. While silver resistance in wound care should be monitored, the threat of widespread resistance is low and silver-containing dressings remain an extremely important tool in managing wound infection.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Bandages / standards*
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Diabetic Foot / complications*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Electrophoresis, Agar Gel
  • Enterobacter cloacae / genetics*
  • Enterobacteriaceae Infections* / epidemiology
  • Enterobacteriaceae Infections* / microbiology
  • Enterobacteriaceae Infections* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Metal Nanoparticles / therapeutic use
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Molecular Epidemiology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prevalence
  • Silver Compounds / therapeutic use*
  • Skin Care / instrumentation
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Wound Infection* / epidemiology
  • Wound Infection* / microbiology
  • Wound Infection* / therapy


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Silver Compounds