New compound can defeat hard to treat antibiotic-resistant bacteria

thumbnail silverThe University of Calgary and an Edmonton medical technology company collaborated on the development of a new treatment for wounds that will reduce healing time and improve patients’ quality of life

The researchers’ silver compound is managing to choke out antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They add that the unique silver oxynitrate wound treatment compound is the most effective of its kind, and would save the health system a large amount of money.

A healthy fiscal decision

Treating resistant bacteria with antibiotics is a major problem for the health care system, according to Lindsay Kalan from Exciton Technologies. She adds, “the Canadian healthcare system spends up to $4 billion a year on wound care alone.”

According to Wound Care Canada magazine, Canada spends at least $3.9 billion annually on wound care. Comparatively, Wound Care Canada states that nationally $2.5 billion is spent on stroke care.

In chronic, non-healing wounds a biofilm will form, which is a group of microorganisms that stick to each other— and often a surface — which can prevent the wound from healing. This is one of the reasons wounds are so expensive to treat and the healing process can be very slow.

The availability of these Silver Oxysalts to physicians and clinicians will revolutionize care for patients with chronic, non-healing wounds.

A white blood cell is shown killing a bacterial cell. When our white blood cells aren’t up to the challenge, doctors step in with antibiotics, such as penicillin or amoxicillin. However, more and more bacteria are developing resistance to these drugs. This is a threat to the healthcare system, as new antibiotics are slow to develop and chronic wound care is costly. GIF courtesy of

The most effective silver available

Silver Oxysalts is more efficient than other types of silver– “We require less of it to achieve the same antimicrobial kill rates and effectiveness compared to other types of silver.,” says Kalan from Exciton Technologies. The company has released a patented line of silver infused wound dressings sold worldwide.

The patented silver compound would be applied to bandages to kill antibiotic resistant bacteria. Silver Oxysalts are a patented silver compound, but they have different chemistry than other silver compounds on the market. Oxysalts release Silver |||, while most silver compounds release Silver |, or silver in its metallic state, Lemire explains.

The goal of the researchers was to improve the life of patients by decreasing the time they need to spend in a hospital due to a wound. Silver Oxysalts “offer another alternative for physicians and people who are suffering from chronic wounds,” says Kalan, who presented the collaboration’s results at the John A. Boswick Burn and Wound Symposium on Sunday, Feb. 14, in Maui, Hawaii.

silver oxynitrate crystals copyScanning electron microscope picture of silver oxynitrate crystals. Photo courtesy of Dr. Imran Ul-Haq, at Exciton Technologies

The long history of using silver in health care

Metals were used in the past to cure infectious disease, but antibiotics became a better treatment explains Joe Lemire, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Calgary whose team tested the efficiency of this product.

Photobody silverJoe Lemire adds that now with antibiotic resistance infections on the rise, the medical community is looking for alternatives. “It just so happens that these ‘antiquated’ treatment options are coming back to the forefront for treating antibiotic resistant infections,” 
Picture by Tara Rathgeber

Lemire adds that now with antibiotic resistance infections on the rise, the medical community is looking for alternatives. “It just so happens that these ‘antiquated’ treatment options are coming back to the forefront for treating antibiotic resistant infections,”

Silver itself is toxic to bacteria, and was being utilized for this reason as early as 1200 B.C.E. “Phoenicians used to put (silver) into their drinking water to preserve it and protect it from getting overrun with microorganisms,” Lemire says.

Catheters and endotracheal tubes can also be coated with silver to help prevent contamination and infection in a clinical setting as well.

Alternate applications of silver and the connotations of a last resort

Silver oxynitrate as a surface coating is something Lemire and his colleagues have also researched. Spraying the compound on surfaces can help prevent infections acquired in hospital settings.

“The idea would be if there was evidence that somebody’s wound would develop into a chronic wound, you could use a silver coated bandage to prevent that from happening.” Lemire says.

Lemire considers this treatment a final resort. “In my opinion, I wouldn’t go to the extent of choosing to use silver until it’s the last line of defence. Perhaps you’ve already tried traditional antibiotics (on a patient) and they might not be working to treat a wound, then you can go ahead and say, ‘Okay, why don’t we try using silver.’”

The editor responsible for this article is Daniel Leon Rodriguez,

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