Infection Control Products Driving the Use of Silver

Silver usage has grown exponentially in medicine and health-related products, notes The Silver Institute, which has been tracking its increased usage.

The high efficiency of silver -- its effective concentration is in parts per million or less, the difficulty microorganisms have in developing resistance to silver, and its long history of use as an antimicrobial are all highly positive factors for predicting increased growth in the use of products containing silver for healthcare, explained Michael DiRienzo, executive director of the Silver Institute. He says that silver's use in hygiene and medicine is expected to reach more than 6 million ounces by 2015 -- up from nearly 1 million ounces in 2010 -- according to a recent Silver Institute report, "The Future of Silver Industrial Demand," which represents a fivefold increase.

Silver usage and components were in wide display at the annual conference of the Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) in Baltimore last month. Its use in medicinal and hygiene are in a variety of forms, including silver sulfadiazine, silver chloride, silver sulfate and nano silver metallic particles.

As DiRienzo explains, "Silver is increasingly used in hygiene, including its incorporation into socks, air purifying sprays, hair dryers, sportswear, hospital gowns, door handles, counter tops, bed rails, and paints and lacquers. Clearly, medical and hygiene professions are looking to silver to help control bacteria and prevent infection."

Among the silver-containing items exhibited at the APIC conference were textile products such as operating gowns, mattress covers and bed linens. Wound-care products also make major use of antimicrobial silver. With respect to wound dressings, studies have shown that dressings containing silver increase the comfort level for burn patients by minimizing adhesion between wound and dressing, thereby reducing pain when changing dressings. Antimicrobial-silver sprays are also used to protect surfaces likely to collect infectious organisms and silver-based coatings are also increasingly used in medical devices such as catheters and tubing to prevent surgical-site infections.

The antimicrobial effects of silver have been known since ancient times, but only within the last five years has silver been used more extensively to control healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). This has been in response to efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and by legislative mandates forcing hospitals to prevent the occurrence of HAIs.

The Silver Institute has been actively involved with educating APIC professionals on silver and has followed through with monitoring the progress in the use of silver for infection control products. Manufacturers of healthcare products containing silver exhibit at conferences worldwide to educate infection preventionists at hospitals and other patient-treatment centers on the many beneficial effects of the metal.