BACKGROUND: Concern over infections acquired in hospitals has intensified over the last several months. AgION Technologies has developed a safe, long-lasting antimicrobial compound based on silver. Researchers have found it to be effective in fighting a wide variety of germs and other pathogens commonly found in healthcare environments. The Clinical Research Hospital at City of Hope in Duarte, Calif., is one of the first in the nation to use AgION-coated antimicrobial steel to minimize infection risks.
HOW IT WORKS: Silver has natural germicidal properties and is one of the oldest antimicrobial agents known. Humans have used silver to ward off disease since the ancient Egyptians; the Greeks used silver vessels for water to keep it fresh. It is still used by settlers in the Australian outback, who suspend silverware in their water tanks to keep spoilage at bay. Silver fell out of favor with the discovery of antibiotics, but interest in its germ-fighting properties has resurged with the rise of drug-resistant organisms and concern over possible epidemics that don't respond to conventional treatment.
RISK FACTORS: Silver is harmless if ingested in small amounts, but like most metals, large doses can be toxic, sometimes fatal. Among other effects, excess silver can be deposited in the skin and tissues, causing discoloration.
The American Society for Microbiology contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.