Second-best at best. Not even close to antibiotics.
Yeah, but antibiotics are busy going phut.
Too much use, too many expectations, too many chances at getting away with things.
Superbugs are winning
Ask your Doc – AMR – antimicrobial resistance – is the big headache right now. You get injured or seriously ill, what the hell do medics do now?
Because the cupboard is bare – not from running out – from over-use, serious over-use – crikey Moses, agriculture alone round the world uses 65,000 tonnes of the stuff every year.
Mind you, the medical sector is not much better – around a quarter of all antibiotic prescriptions are placebo-type overkill or just plain unnecessary.
No, no, the big problem is that these one-time miracle drugs are beginning not to work any more. The superbugs they’re meant to kill refuse to roll over, dead.
Too smart, see? Immune. Mutated and adapted every generation – which can happen every few minutes – able to resist whatever we throw at them.
Ho, hum, did you feel a breeze just then?
End of the line?
Yeah, an empty cupboard. And no new antibiotics discovered since 1987. No profit in it with a one-off course of three tablets a day for a week. How about one a day, every day for life? THAT’S more like it!
OK, but we’re not dead yet. Antibiotics are still saving lives, still enabling medical experts to do amazing things – brain surgery, organ transplants, joint replacements – right down to C-sections births which are now 1 in 4.
The writing is on the wall though. And the day is fast arriving when our mind-blowing silver bullets run out of fizz. In fact the all-resistant bug – protected by the gene mcr-1 – is already here.
Time to call for back-up. Second best maybe, but better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick.
Say hello to silver, an old friend from way back. 400 BC to be exact – and even then it was old hat – when Hippocrates (he of the doctors’ Hippocratic Oath) taught how to use it for healing wounds and controlling disease.
You’re right, silver is not in the same class as modern antibiotics. But it does have antibiotic qualities of its own.
Prolonged exposure to silver seems to clobber most pathogens eventually – slow perhaps, but effective. Which is why the rich would drink from silver cups and eat with silver cutlery. And why wounded soldiers 100 years ago had their sutures sewn with silver thread to reduce infection.
Their dressings were silver too – local application seemed to work better than internal dosing. And still today, you can get waterproof Elastoplast with antiseptic silver in the would pad.
There is even the possibility that silver could boost the performance of our sagging antibiotics – helping to overcome AMR and get some of their mojo back. Tests already show improvements up to 1,000 times better germ-killing power.
Better still, silver is not just antibacterial, it’s antifungal and antiviral as well. And winners though they still are, antibiotics have never been able to take down viruses.
Thank you, No 2
Second best, yes. But definitely better than nothing.
Put that together with a new awareness of hygiene – necessity will force us to keep ourselves cleaner as the superbugs take over – and our medical future is not so desperate after all.
Given time, it could even get better. Researchers have found that silver interrupts a bacteria cell’s ability to form chemical bonds it needs for survival.
Hmm, no viruses, no bacteria – what’s not to like?
Picture Copyright: feedough / 123RF Stock Photo