What follows are my thoughts on this article, http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-antibiotics-silver-20130620,0,6215677.story, which was written by Monte Morin and published in the Los Angeles Times on June 20, 2013 with the title, “Silver found to increase effectiveness of antibiotics”. The article reports that James Collins, a microbiology professor at Boston University, has found that silver, “when added to antibiotics in trace amounts makes the drugs as much as 1,000 times more effective in treating mice…” I have not yet obtained and read Dr. Collins’s study but am blogging on the LAT report because of the attention I am sure that it will get.
This is very exciting and promising. I hope that further studies, especially studies in humans, consistently confirm the results. If so, I will certainly endorse using silver this way and suspect that drug companies will want to add it to antibiotics and that before doing so they will do studies that show under what conditions it is beneficial, the amount that is beneficial and the amount that is toxic to the average person taking it.
However, assuming the Times article accurately reports the original research, there are some very important things to note.
The study didn’t use colloidal silver. It used silver nitrate. Silver nitrate was used before the advent of antibiotics. It didn’t work when taken internally although it did cause many cases of argyria, gray skin. When silver was studied back then, researchers discovered that mice don’t get argyria.
The Times reports that, “In one experiment, researchers induced peritonitis in mice by injecting them with E. coli cells. Of the mice treated with silver and vancomycin, 90% survived…Half of the mice that got silver died, along with 90% of the mice treated with antibiotics.” That sounds as if: silver nitrate and vancomycin very effectively treated E. coli peritonitis in mice; silver nitrate alone was effective in half the cases; and, vancomycin was effective in 10% of the cases. However, without knowing more details, I can’t conclude anything other than that the combination of silver nitrate and vancomycin sounds very promising indeed and should be studied further. Without knowing things like how long the animals were kept alive and monitored after the study, I have no idea whether or not any of the treatments cured them or just slowed the progression of their disease.
The story also notes that bacterial resistance to silver has been reported. That is true. It has been seen with approved topical silver drugs that have been used extensively to treat wounds, especially serious burns usually in hospitals burn units.
I find this study very relevant to this blog on naturopathic medicine because it strongly reinforces my entire point which is that the difference between the evidence-based or scientific medicine espoused by MDs, medical doctors, and the belief-based system of medicine embraced by NDs, naturopaths, is that MDs believe that the only way to evaluate drugs and therapies to see if they are safe and effective is to study them extensively and objectively before using them routinely. NDs on the other hand, believe in trying anything they think or hope may work either because it is natural and their philosophy holds that natural = beneficial or because, based on their own personal experience or testimony from someone else about his, they conclude that it works.
Additionally, scientists who develop drugs and therapies believe that the only way to do that is by doing exactly the kind of objective studies that Dr. Collins has done here progressing one step at a time whereas naturopaths and other alts jump right in using whatever suits their fancy playing Russian roulette with your life and health. See why naturopaths terrify me?
silver, antibiotics, drug resistance, naturopaths, colloidal silver, silver nitrate