Benefits of silver-containing antimicrobial surfaces

Jason Tetro provides an insight into how supplementary passive environmental hygiene in the form of silver-containing antimicrobial surfaces can assist in ensuring the infection chain is interrupted.

Part of the inspiration for today’s regimen of cleaning and decontamination with biocides came not from a hospital, but a sewage system in Carlisle. In 1864, an experiment to reduce the odour from sewage using carbolic acid caught the attention of Joseph Lister, the father of antisepsis. He subsequently used carbolic acid to reduce the development of odours on wounds. Not only was this approach successful but it also revealed the antimicrobial nature of the chemical. 

Not soon after this revelation, Joseph Lister attempted to identify other possible antimicrobials to improve upon antisepsis. One of his discoveries was silver. Lister had seen its effectiveness in sutures and added them to his surgical work. Eventually, silver became the suture of choice due to the antimicrobial activity that was in essence, passive in nature. It was put in place and left there to reduce microbial growth. 

Lister’s choice of silver was momentous. However, it was not the first time silver had been used in healthcare. Records on the use of silver in medicine date back thousands of years, including in the texts of the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates. But thanks to Lister’s recommendations, silver gained unprecedented attention as an antimicrobial for general use in the hospital. Today, over a hundred years later, Lister’s work continues to be honoured by Polygiene BioMaster through the use of silver to assist a different area of healthcare that also aims to reduce the growth of microbes: environmental hygiene. 

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