As antibiotics become more and more ineffective, the search is on for another effective way to fight infections. Our forefathers had such a cheap and effective tool - the metal silver - but this was discredited with the ascendancy of antibiotics. Now, however, breakthrough scientific research could restore colloidal silver to its once-accepted status as the most versatile and effective natural means to fight not only bacteria, but other organisms, such as fungi and viruses, as well.
Silver has been used since antiquity to purify water. While silver's importance as a bactericide has been documented only since the late 1800s, its use in purification has been known throughout the ages. The Phoenicians, for example, used silver vessels to keep water, wine and vinegar pure during long voyages. American pioneers put silver and copper coins in their water barrels to keep the water clean.
In fact, 'born with a silver spoon in his mouth' is not a reference to wealth, but to health. In the early 18th century, babies fed with silver spoons were found to be healthier than those fed with spoons made from other metals.
The British aristocracy used to eat off silver plates with the use of silver utensils and drank from silver goblets. In addition to ingesting quantities of silver, they used to also inject themselves with it, a practice which allegedly led to their being referred to as 'blue bloods' due to the resultant change in skin colour. Certainly, it is known that prolonged ingestion of certain forms of silver can lead to argyria, which is characterised by a harmless - but unsightly - grayish skin discoloration.
In the early 1900s, a reasonable number of reports could be found in both British and American medical journals on the use of silver for a variety of diseases (Lancet, 1912; Feb 3: 83; BMJ, 1917; May 12: 85; JAMA, 1922; March 18: 442). Australian Dr Keith Courteney has summarised many of these early results in his book Colloidal Silver (Oracle Press, Montville, Queensland, 1999; available in the UK from Nexus Magazine - 01342 322 854), which, while in need of judicious editing, is a useful source of early applications.
Up until World War II, silver was a mainstream bactericidal and antifungal that was used both intravenously and intramuscularly, as a throat gargle and douche, as well as orally, topically and as eyedrops (Baranowski Z, Colloidal Silver: The Natural Antibiotic Alternative, Healing Wisdom Publications, NY, 1995). It is reputed to have been used against some 650 bacteria and fungi (see box).
However, the crude technology made it expensive to produce and, with the post-WWII rise in pharmaceuticals, it rapidly fell into disuse in the new era of antibiotics. However, in the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies silver as a pre-1938 drug and still allows it to be used so long as such products 'are advertised and labelled for the same use as in 1938 and . . . manufactured in the original manner'.
Nonetheless, in the 1970s, silver began something of a comeback. Dr Carl Moyer at the University of Washington worked with biochemist Dr Harry Margraf to find a better treatment for burns victims. They initially used silver nitrate but, finding it to be corrosive and painful, diluted it to a 0.5 per cent solution and observed that it killed Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria and allowed wounds to heal (Surgical Forum, 1966; 17: 76-8). In addition, no resistant strains developed. This discovery led to the increasing use of silver ions for burns and wound healing.
Following outbreaks of legionnaire's disease in Britain during the 1980s, silver was eventually found to be effective in treating it. Experiments showed that even at lower water temperatures, ionisation of soft water with silver and copper ions was effective against the bacteria. Silver is now used in modern water purification systems. Many airlines use silver water filters and NASA uses a silver system for the Space Shuttle.
In the 1990s, further research was carried out at various centres in the US. Dr Margaret Bayer at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia showed that the growth and spread of the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, the causal microorganism in Lyme disease, are measurably slowed, or even stopped, by colloidal silver in vitro (Courteney, op cit, p 27).
Courteney also reports that, at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Professor of Microbiology Dr Helen Buckly found that the growth of several varieties of Candida albicans (yeast strains) and a number of Cryptococcus neoformans strains were blocked by very small doses of colloidal silver in vitro.
However, in some of the other cases reported, it is difficult to confirm exactly what results were achieved since they appear not to have been published in scientific journals.
Dr Robert Becker, the American orthopaedic surgeon, and pioneer in the field of regeneration and bioelectromagnetics, reports on his success using silver electrodes in his landmark book The Body Electric (co-author Gary Selden; William Morrow & Co, NY, 1985). Describing his early work in 1973 on bone regeneration using electricity, he stated:
'In preliminary tests, we found that silver electrodes - when made electrically positive - would kill all types of bacteria in a zone about a half-inch in diameter, apparently because of positive silver ions driven into the culture by the applied voltage. This was an exciting discovery because no single antibiotic worked against all types of bacteria.'
Although other metals, such as gold, platinum, copper and stainless steel, stopped the growth of four types of bacteria tested at both poles, these metals only succeeded when such high currents were used that other toxic effects were produced. Only silver at the positive pole killed or deactivated every type of bacteria without side-effects, even at very low currents.
Becker then observed an extraordinary effect on fibroblasts, the connective tissue cells that form a major part of most soft tissues in the body. He describes his results with pure-bred mouse fibroblasts:
'While doing their job of holding things together, fibroblasts have a characteristic spiky shape, with long sticky branches extending in all directions. In this region where silver ions had been driven by the current, many of the cells had changed to a static, globular form in which mitosis didn't occur. They seemed to be in suspended animation, floating freely instead of adhering to other cells or the sides of the dishes as usual. Mixed among them were many featureless cells with enlarged nuclei, the end product of dedifferentiation. More and more of the rounded fibroblasts turned into fully despecialised cells as the test progressed.'
He goes on: 'It remains to be seen exactly what the various forms do, but it's obvious that, in the aggregate, they profoundly stimulate soft-tissue healing in a way that's unlike any known natural process [our italics]. We ran a controlled study of the healing enhancement on pigs, their skin being physiologically closest to that of humans. Positive silver nylon accelerated the healing of measured skin wounds on the animals' backs by over 50 per cent as compared with identical control wounds made on the backs of the same animals made at the same time.'
And he ends by stating: 'We may only have scratched the surface of positive silver's medical brilliance. Already it's an amazing tool. It stimulates bone-forming cells, cures the most stubborn infections of all kinds of bacteria, and stimulates healing in the skin and other soft tissue.
'We don't know whether the treatment can induce healing in other parts of the body, but the possibility is there . . . Just before our research group was disbanded, we studied malignant fibrosarcoma cells (cancerous fibroblasts) and found that, when electrically injected, their runaway mitosis was suspended.
'Most important of all, the technique makes it possible to produce large numbers of dedifferentiated cells, overcoming the main problem of mammalian regeneration - the limited number of bone marrow cells that dedifferentiate in response to electrical current alone.'
Partly as a result of Becker's work, silver has been used in wound healing for many years and is now incorporated into bandages to speed up healing.
Reliance on difficult-to-substantiate findings reported by some researchers in the 1970s and 1980s is now giving way to well-researched studies carried out by university scientists. In particular, the recent results of studies at two American universities are now available.
Research in Utah
Starting in 1998, Professor of Microbiology Dr Ron Leavitt and microbiologist Dr David Revelli at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, have carried out a series of tests on a variety of bacteria and yeasts using a proprietary product - The Silver Solution. Their results, which have yet to be published (see box), show that they were able to kill all of the important bacteria responsible for many major infections. These data can be seen on their website (www.allianceteam.com/radio/silver.html).
Commenting on their results, Professor Leavitt said that, when testing for toxicity, he had found no toxicity even at the maximum level required by the FDA (5 g/kg body weight). The product he uses was manufactured by American Silver in Alpine, Utah, which has patented their production process.
'We've tested it against four or five other products and it contains no precipitate and is 96 per cent elemental silver as opposed to the ionic form,' he stated. 'Although most colloidal silver products have to be kept in glass bottles, we've tested The Silver Solution and it remains stable in plastic containers even after nine months.'
'We're now looking at malarial parasites which, in preliminary results, are killed by colloidal silver. I hope to be looking at its anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties also. As for the mechanism, its broad spectrum suggests some sort of catalytic action, perhaps affecting ATP [adenosine triphosphate, required for RNA synthesis] generation, but it needs more research.'
In some three years of testing, he has found no resistance to it developing in any microorganisms. Anecdotally, he knows of clinicians who have had particular success with otitis media in children. 'Using 2 parts per million (ppm)/mL in the ear, it disappeared overnight,' he says.
'We've also done some tests on cancer cells and found that they are much more sensitive to colloidal silver than primary cells. We hope to do more work on that. We also have early positive results on polio and tuberculosis, and these need to be replicated.'
As far as animals are concerned, he knows of poultry farmers who have successfully treated turkeys with specific diseases, although no proper trials have yet been done. Professor Leavitt has submitted some of his results for publication.
Not only has The Silver Solution been proven to kill harmful bacteria but, in recent tests carried out at the University of California at Davis, The Silver Solution was able to inhibit the ability of yeasts (such as Candida albicans) to grow. According to microbiologist Jason Henrie, 'It is evident that a single 10-ppm application could prevent the further growth of a small population of yeast for 24 hours, allowing one's immune system time to respond. Even more, multiple 10-ppm applications could conceivably prevent the growth of yeast indefinitely.'
Research in Texas
Independent of the Brigham Young University team and unknown to them, their results were replicated for many of the same bacteria as well as others by Professor of Microbiology Dr Mark Farinha at the University of North Texas, Denton, Texas, during 2000. Similarly, his results have yet to be published and can be seen on his website (www.silver-labs.com) along with graphs that show the kill time for certain bacteria.
One of these graphs shows the killing power of colloidal silver against the common skin bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. These microorganisms are capable of causing many superficial skin infections and subcutaneous abscesses as well as more serious infections, such as deep abscesses and bone infections.
In addition, the emergence of drug-resistant strains of S. aureus, such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant S. aureus), makes this microbe a serious public health threat. MRSA is endemic in many UK hospitals. Regardless of the strain tested (MRSA or non-MRSA), colloidal silver showed a killing rate that exceeded 10 billion bacteria/mL in under two minutes. This should be of profound interest to all Health Trusts involved in hospital management, and calls for immediate replication and clinical application.
Professor Farinha states: 'At Silver Labs, we are dedicated to testing our products for efficacy of killing of microorganisms. We have challenged a broad range of microorganisms with our products and, in every case tested, we see remarkable killing in a short period of time.'
The table above shows the organisms tested to date for killing by Silver Labs' colloidal silver. It indicates the starting concentration of microorganisms and the time required before no living organisms can be detected. As can be clearly seen, colloidal silver is able to quickly kill all of the microorganisms tested in the laboratory.
Professor Farinha emphasises that the quality of the colloidal silver is of critical importance in obtaining the fastest, most effective and most replicable results. For this reason, he will only use a product made by SilverKare Inc, based in Dallas (Box 670386, Dallas 75367, Texas), which has been manufacturing colloidal silver for six years. 'It's double-distilled using an ultra-filter at 0.8 microns so no endotoxins are present, and has a properly balanced pH,' he said. 'We found that 30 ppm is the optimal dose - 3-5 ppm will kill the bacteria, but it takes longer. No extra benefit is gained by increasing the dose to 100 ppm.'
Jim Hadsell, who runs SilverKare, claims that theirs is the finest colloidal silver on the market. Details of their production process are given on their website (www.silverkare.com), which states:
'In the manufacturing process, silver particles and water have become completely colloided; they have become simultaneously dispersed within and bound to each other by an electrical current sent through the combination. SilverKare's Colloidal Silver contains 10-30 ppm of superfine particles of 0.999 silver in the range of 0.005- 0.015 microns in diameter, electromagnetically charged and suspended in deionised water. The silver particles stay in suspension without the need of any chemical, protein, stabiliser or artificial additive. All this makes SilverKare's product a true colloid of silver.'
'As for the mechanism,' says Professor Farinha, 'the commonly held idea that the silver starves the enzymes on which the organisms depend of oxygen doesn't really stand up because many of them are anaerobic and it wouldn't apply anyway for viruses. It may be having its effect at the electron transfer level and, in the case of viruses, I suspect silver ions are attaching to the surface proteins of the virus, preventing attachment to cells. But it needs more time and money to clarify the process with more experiments.'
Jim Hadsell is aiming to set up the Foundation for Life Enhancement to enable Professor Farinha to extend his research to viruses on the basis of the claims of efficacy against them. Hadsell regularly dispatches their Colloidal Silver free to missionaries and doctors in developing countries to enable them to treat infected water as well as the sick. One doctor using it in Ghana is apparently having great success controlling E. coli infections.
SilverKare Colloidal Silver is also being used in some five hospitals in the Dallas area under the supervision of certified wound, ostomy and continence nurse Cindy Ahern. She has used it for the past two years on over 200 patients for acute and chronic would healing and confirms that it has 'amazing bactericidal properties'.
'I have been using it for pressure ulcers, venous stasis ulcers, diabetic feet, especially for dissection necrosis, and MRSA, which it knocks out in a matter of days. In all cases, it produces dramatic improvement,' she told PROOF!.
'Combined with bovine collagen, it greatly stimulates tissue growth as well as providing microbial control. I see 50 per cent increased growth occurring within 10 days, whereas it would normally take at least 30. As for scars, they are much cleaner, flatter and smoother, with much less need for remodelling.'
Her experiences corroborate the findings of Dr Becker, as already reported. Nurse Ahern is now writing up some of her results and is encouraging hospital clinicians to also report their experiences, most of which until now have been communicated only by word of mouth. She can be reached on 001 903 873 2728.
As well as the anecdotal evidence reported by Professor Leavitt at Brigham Young, vet Dr Eugene Williams, based in Houston, has been using colloidal silver for two years to treat horses, with very good results. 'I had one horse with equine EMP [a form of sleeping sickness] that relapsed six months after treatment. I gave him 30 cc of colloidal silver intravenously for 10 days and it cured him completely.'
'A mare that had an infected uterus that was being treated with gentamicin [a powerful broad-spectrum antibiotic] wasn't getting any better. After three pints of colloidal silver for three days when she was in season, she was completely clean.'
In the UK, Sir Richard Wylie, based in Peterborough, runs one of the half-dozen or so small companies that supply colloidal silver generators to the public to enable them to make their own colloidal silver (tel: 01733 315 888; www.dazer.com). Typically, such devices cost around lb40-80.
'We treat a lot of birds and have a large following among the pigeon-racing community,' he says. 'I know scores of horse and dog owners who now openly praise colloidal silver, and swear by its effectiveness in alleviating ear infections, laminitis, sweetitch, mange, chronic kidney and liver ailments, and a host of digestive maladies. Of course, it doesn't cure these conditions, but it does kill the organisms that cause them, thus allowing the natural healing rhythms to become effective.'
All of which begs the question: shouldn't the authorities be urgently investigating the possible effectiveness of colloidal silver against foot-and-mouth disease? 'Absolutely,' says Sir Richard emphatically. 'In fact, we will supply a generator free to any farmer wanting to test it.'
In response, the core results shown in this report have been forwarded to the relevant authorities with the suggestion that they urgently investigate colloidal silver's potential benefit in the current outbreak.
Whatever the case, orthodox medicine should waste no time in picking up the gauntlet of the American results and replicating them, if not applying them immediately. In the face of the ever-diminishing power of antibiotics, the threat of MRSA and other resistant strains, here is a genuine low-cost, highly effective, non-resistant infection fighter whose scientific validation is beginning to arrive to back up what people have known for centuries.
Simon Best produces the quarterly publication, Electromagnetic Hazard & Therapy, which reports on the health effects of items such as mobile phones, masts and powerlines, as well as the therapeutic uses of EM fields. For more information, send an SAE to: Box 2039, Shoreham, W Sussex BN43 5FE, or see his website at: www.em-hazard-therapy.com. Simon also mans a premium-rate helpline (lb1.50/ min) on 0906 401 0237.
Prior to antibiotics, colloidal silver was used to treat some 650 conditions, including:
acne, AIDS, allergies, appendicitis, arthritis, athlete's foot, bladder inflammation, blood parasites, blood poisoning, boils, burns, candidiasis, cholera, colitis, conjunctivitis, cystitis, dermatitis, diabetes, dysentery, eczema, severe eye infection with pus, fibrositis, gastritis, gonorrhoea, hayfever, herpes, impetigo, indigestion, keratitis, leprosy, leukaemia, lupus, lymphangitis, Lyme disease, malaria, meningitis, neurasthaenia, parasitic infections, viral, fungal and bacterial pneumonia, pleurisy, prostatitis, psoriasis, rhinitis, rheumatism, ringworm, scarlet fever, septic conditions of the eyes, ears, mouth and throat, seborrhoea, septicaemia, shingles, skin cancer, staphylococcal and streptococcal infections, stomach flu, stomach ulcer, syphilis, thyroid, tuberculosis, tonsillitis, toxaemia, all forms of viral infections, warts, whooping cough, yeast infections, canine parvovirus and other veterinary uses, and fungal and viral attacks on plants.
Brigham Young findings Drs Ron Leavitt and David Revelli at Brigham Young University in Utah had the following results using a brand of colloidal silver:
* Staphylococcus aureus (e.g. pneumonia, boils, impetigo, cellulitis and postoperative wound infections, osteomyelitis, TSS, meningitis, food poisoning) inhibited @ 2.5 ppm and killed @ 5 ppm
* Shigella boydii (e.g. bacillary dysentery) inhibited @ 1.25 ppm and killed @ 2.5 ppm
* Salmonella arizona (e.g. food poisoning) inhibited @ 2.5 ppm and kill-ed @ 5 ppm
* Salmonella typhimurium (e.g. food poisoning, enteric fever) inhibited and killed @ 2.5 ppm
* Escherichia coli (e.g. food poisoning, urinary/respiratory tract infections [UTI/RTI], diarrhoea, wound infections) inhibited and killed @ 2.5 ppm
* Haemophilus influenzae (e.g. otitis media, pneumonia, meningitis, epiglottitis, sinusitis, suppurative arthritis in children) inhibited and killed @ 1.25 ppm
* Enterobacter aerogenes (e.g. wound infections, bacteraemia, meningitis, UTI) inhibited and killed @ 2.5 ppm
* Enterobacter cloacae (as with E. aerogenes) inhibited and killed @ 5 ppm
* Klebsiella pneumoniae (e.g. lower RTI, hospital-acquired infections, wound infections, UTI, bacteraemia) inhibited and killed @ 2.5 ppm
* Klebsiella oxytoca (as with K. pneumoniae) inhibited and killed @ 2.5 ppm
* Pseudomonas aeruginosa (e.g. severe burns and wound infections, keratitis, pneumonia, meningitis, hospital-acquired infections, UTI) inhibited @ 2.5 ppm and killed @ 5 ppm
* Streptococcus pneumoniae (e.g. pneumonia, meningitis, sinusitis, otitis media) inhibited @ 2.5 ppm and killed @ 5 ppm
* Streptococcus pyogenes (e.g. skin infections, upper RTI, impetigo, hospital-acquired infections, scarlet fever) inhibited and killed @ 1.25 ppm
* Streptococcus faecalis (e.g. UTI, infective endocarditis, wound infections) inhibited @ 2.5 ppm and killed @ 5 ppm
* Streptococcus mutans (e.g. dental plaque and tooth decay) inhibited and killed @ 5 ppm
* Streptococcus gordonii (e.g. tooth decay, infective endocarditis) inhibited and killed @ 5 ppm
(strain designation) (CFU/mL) Kill time*
Staphylococcus aureus (ATCC6538) 50.0 billion < 2 min
Staphylococcus aureus (ATCC33592)** 17.0 billion < 6 min
Staphylococcus epidermidis (ATCC12228) 6.5 billion < 6 min
Enterococcus faecalis (ATCC19433) 0.4 billion < 4 min
Pseudomonas aeruginosa (ATCC9027) 26.0 billion < 4 min
Escherichia coli (ATCC8739) 2.0 billion < 4 min
Enterobacter cloacae (ATCC23355) 35.0 billion < 1 min
Klebsiella pneumoniae (ATCC13883) 8.6 billion < 1 min
Proteus vulgaris (ATCC13315) 6.3 billion < 1 min
Salmonella typhimurium (ATCC14028) 18.0 billion < 4 min
Serratia marcescens (ATCC8100) 29.0 billion < 1 min
Candida albicans (ATCC10231) 6.5 billion < 1 min
Aspergillus niger (ATCC16404) 3.8 million < 1 min
Trichophyton mentagrophytes (ATCC4807) 0.9 billion < 2 min
ATCC, American Type Culture Collection; CFU, colony-forming unit; <, less than;
* time till no living microorganisms detected; **methicillin-resistant (MRSA) strain of S. aureus
Strains in boldface are FDA-standard strains for antimicrobial susceptibility testing
Early, pre-WWII colloidal silver manufacturing techniques were more expensive as well as less efficient than today's methods, and resulted in a silver particle that never reached its optimal ultramicroscopic size.
The highest grade of colloidal silver is produced with an electrocolloidal (rather than mechanical grinding, ultrasonic or chemical) method. The silver particles and water are dispersed within and bound to each other by an electric current. This preserves the homogeneity, minuteness of granules, purity and stability to create a true colloid, with particles of ultrafine (about 0.01-0.001 microns in diameter), 99.999 per cent silver that is electrically charged and held in suspension in deionised water.
According to the Colloid Research Foundation, the highest-quality colloidal silver has the maximum number of particles of the minimum possible size, with the ultimate solution having a huge number of particles of only one atom, each carrying an electrical charge.
A true silver colloid should not contain any artificial stabilisers or chemical additives of any kind, which may be present in some silver products on the market. Some makers even use an artificial yellow dye to give their product the proper golden-yellow colour of a true silver colloid.
Darker colours indicate larger silver particles, which tend to collect at the bottom of the container; these are not true colloids. If a product contains a stabiliser or trace elements other than silver, or if it needs to be shaken, it is inferior. If a product requires refrigeration, then some other ingredient is present that could spoil. The container and dropper must be of glass as most plastics cannot preserve silver in liquid suspension for any length of time. High concentrations of silver (see text) will kill organisms quicker - but not necessarily more effectively - than the usual range of 3-5 parts per million (ppm).