MAY 04, 2015 02:00 PM PDT

You can't kill zombies with a silver bullet, but you can create them with one.

Colorized SEM of Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteriaIn horror stories, a silver bullet is often used to kill werewolves and other types of monsters. But chemist David Avnir and his research team at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have discovered that zombies can be created with a "silver bullet" of sorts.

The scientists demonstrated that when a wild-type Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 strain was killed with the biocidal agent, silver nitrate, the dead bacteria served as a reservoir of silver that was then re-targeted to living bacteria and killed a new population. Further, if the silver was not washed away, it would continue to kill generation after generation of bacteria.

The scientists who carried out this study have named the action "the zombies effect," because of the way that the dead bacteria affect the viability of living bacterial cells.

These results help to explain the long-lasting antibacterial activity of silver, which has been used for thousands of years a potent biocide. The study also suggests that understanding the zombie effect could improve the performance of antibacterial agents such as those used in wound healing and water treatment.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

REFERENCE
Scientific Reports 5, Article number: 9555 doi:10.1038/srep09555
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