Effects of wound dressings containing silver on skin and immune cells

Sci Rep. 2020 Sep 16;10(1):15216. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-72249-3.


Wound dressings with silver have been shown to be cytotoxic in vitro. However, the extrapolation of this cytotoxicity to clinical settings is unclear. We applied dressings with various forms of silver on porcine skin ex vivo and investigated silver penetration and DNA damage. We assessed antimicrobial efficacy, cytotoxicity to skin cells, and immune response induced by the dressings. All dressings elevated the DNA damage marker γ-H2AX and the expression of stress-related genes in explanted skin relative to control. This corresponded with the amount of silver in the skin. The dressings reduced viability, induced oxidative stress and DNA damage in skin cells, and induced the production of pro-inflammatory IL-6 by monocytes. The oxidative burst and viability of activated neutrophils decreased. The amount of silver released into the culture medium varied among the dressings and correlated with in vitro toxicity. However, antimicrobial efficiencies did not correlate strongly with the amount of silver released from the dressings. Antimicrobial efficiency and toxicity are driven by the form of silver and the construction of dressings and not only by the silver concentration. The damaging effects of silver dressings in ex vivo skin highlight the importance of thorough in vivo investigation of silver dressing toxicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bandages / adverse effects*
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • DNA Damage*
  • Humans
  • Silver / toxicity*
  • Skin / chemistry
  • Skin / cytology*
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Swine
  • Tissue Culture Techniques
  • Wound Infection


  • Silver