Antimicrobial Activity of Gold Nanoparticles and Ionic Gold

J Environ Sci Health C Environ Carcinog Ecotoxicol Rev. 2015;33(3):286-327. doi: 10.1080/10590501.2015.1055161.


Gold, in both nanoparticle (AuNPs) and ionic forms, has been studied for antibiotic activities. Some of the organic complexes of Au (I & III) ions are antibacterial. AuNPs are antifungal, but with conflicting results on their antibacterial activity. We summarized these publications and found that AuNPs are generally not bactericidal, or only weakly at high concentrations. However, the reason AuNPs appear to be bactericidal is possibly due to the bactericidal activity of co-existing chemicals not completely removed from AuNPs: gold ions, surface coating agents, and chemicals involved in the synthesis. AuNPs can also act as carriers or delivery vehicles of antibiotics, thus enhancing the bactericidal effect of the antibiotics.

Keywords: antibacterial; antimicrobial; gold ions; gold nanoparticles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Fungi / drug effects
  • Gold / pharmacology*
  • Ions / pharmacology
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry*


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Ions
  • Gold