Soaking in silver.
Almost a century ago and for decades later, silver compounds were used in clinical medicine as antiseptics -- for example, to prevent or treat the effects of burns. Medical interest in silver revived during the 1970s when a series of studies showed that electrically generated silver ions inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi. The first attempt to apply this technique clinically was for the treatment of osteomyelitis, a bone disease. Tissue was exposed to silver ions generated when a small current passed through thin silver wires or silver-coated nylon fabric. However, questions remained about the effectiveness of using coated fibers. Now, in this month's JOURNAL OF THE ELECTROCHEMICAL SOCIETY, a team of medical researchers at the Louisiana State University Medical School in Shreveport report that commercially available, silver-coated nylon fabrics can produce the levels of silver ions necessary to stop the growth of microbes at relatively low currents and voltages.
The concept of applying an antiseptic by passing a current through a metallized fabric is appealing, the researchers say, because the dose can be regulated by controlling the current. In addition, the fabric can be chosen to provide the best kind of dressing for a wound, and the cost would still be low because only a thin coating of silver is required.