Antibiotic resistance is a serious condition in which bacteria and other germs that invade the human body become resistant to antibiotics / antimicrobials that kill them.
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The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared bacterial antibiotic resistance to be the worst threat to human health, despite Covid-19. The problem is even greater in India, known as the world’s antimicrobial resistance capital, due to the widespread and indiscriminate use of antibiotics in humans, livestock and agriculture. “Silver, a common decorative metal, when present as a nano-sized particle – one million times smaller than the width of a single human hair – has good antimicrobial properties,” said Saptarshi Mukherjee, professor of chemistry at IISER Bhopal, in a statement.
Physicians have used silver in various forms since ancient times to prevent infection and promote healing.
“Typically, silver nanomaterials are produced using toxic precursors that often create harmful by-products inside the system,” said the lead researcher.
But in a new study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society – ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, the IISER team used the amino acid tyrosine to make silver nanomaterials that have excellent antimicrobial properties. Tyrosine is present in many food items, including meat, dairy, nuts and beans.
The researchers treated with silver nitrate, the main ingredient in ‘selection ink’ used to stain nails after voting in India, with tyrosine in the presence of caustic soda.
Tyrosine acts as a reducing agent and capping agent to make silver nanomaterials. When examining the product under high-resolution microscopes (TEM and SEM), they found two forms of silver nanostructures – nanoclusters and nanoparticles.
Nanoparticles have been found to kill germs such as S. Cerevisia (associated with pneumonia, peritonitis, UTI, etc.), c. Albicans (oral and genital infections), e. E. coli (stomach infection), and b. Serious (stomach infection), within about four hours.
The research team also explained the process by which nanoparticles kill germs. They found that nanoparticles produced “single oxygen species” which enhanced cellular stress and consequently exposed / damaged the cell membranes of bacteria and leaked proteins from the cells, killing them.
Although the nanoparticles produced by the above process have microbicidal action, smaller sized nanoclasters can be used as illuminated and bioimaging probes.
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