APR 07, 2020 12:24 PM PDT

The anti-bacterial superpowers of silver

Now more than ever we are all thinking about germs. Germs, microbes, bacteria, viruses – it’s a constant mind-loop. Well, scientists from the University of Arkansas have also had bacteria on their minds; bacteria, and more specifically, what kills bacteria: silver.

Photo: Pixabay

While the antimicrobial properties of silver are not a recent discovery, understanding exactly how silver kills bacteria is still somewhat of a secret. In order to crack that code, U of Arkansas researchers used an advanced imaging technique, called single-particle-tracking photoactivated localization microscopy.

Their findings, published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, describe how proteins in live bacteria interact with silver on a molecular level. "It is known that silver ions can suppress and kill bacteria; we thus expected that everything slowed down in the bacteria when treated with silver. But, surprisingly, we found that the dynamics of this protein became faster," commented said one of the authors of the study, Yong Wang, who is an assistant professor of physics.

In looking at the dynamic of proteins in E. coli bacteria, the researchers discovered that silver ions triggered the separation of the bacteria’s paired strands of DNA and weakened the binding between the protein and the DNA.

"Then the faster dynamics of the proteins caused by silver can be understood," said Wang. "When the protein is bound to the DNA, it moves slowly together with the DNA, which is a huge molecule in the bacteria. In contrast, when treated with silver, the proteins fall off from the DNA, moving by themselves and thus faster."

The knowledge garnered from this study can be applied in future efforts using silver nanoparticles to fight superbugs. "What we want to do eventually is to use the new knowledge generated from this project to make better antibiotics based on silver nanoparticles," concluded Wang.

Sources: Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
AUG 17, 2020
Technology
An Answer To a Mathematical Conundrum Could Improve Computers
AUG 17, 2020
An Answer To a Mathematical Conundrum Could Improve Computers
A riddle was recently solved by two mathematicians that can improve modern-day phones and computers. "We had nearly ...
SEP 01, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
No Child's Play - Advanced Bubble Manipulation Method can Transform Chemical Processing
SEP 01, 2020
No Child's Play - Advanced Bubble Manipulation Method can Transform Chemical Processing
Gas bubbles are fascinating, playful objects in children's eyes. In fact, they play an essential role in many indust ...
SEP 06, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
The fluid dynamics of pelagic snails' movement
SEP 06, 2020
The fluid dynamics of pelagic snails' movement
Warm water pelagic snails don’t get much attention, but they certainly should. The snails move between ocean surfa ...
OCT 18, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Monitoring ocean chemistry over the last forty years
OCT 18, 2020
Monitoring ocean chemistry over the last forty years
A study published recently in Nature Communications Earth & Environment contemplates the changing chemistry and ...
OCT 29, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Einstein: Gravity? What Gravity?
OCT 29, 2020
Einstein: Gravity? What Gravity?
Try imagining a fictional conversation between Issac Newton and Albert Einstein: "The apple falls toward the ground ...
NOV 20, 2020
Space & Astronomy
The Universe is Getting Hotter, not Cooler, as it Expands
NOV 20, 2020
The Universe is Getting Hotter, not Cooler, as it Expands
Up until now, scientists have theorized that as the Universe expands, its temperature has gradually declined. New resear ...
Loading Comments...