Ways to overcome bacterial resistance to antibiotics are sought worldwide. Scientists in Olomouc bet on nanosilver

Scientists, medical doctors, as well as the European Union highlight the danger of antibiotics overuse, after 90 years from their discovery. According to the European Union’s Action Plan, new rules restricting the consumption of antibiotics and minimizing the risk of bacterial resistance will come into force in 2022. Increasing bacterial resistance to antibiotics and the risk that bacterial infections will not be possible to treat are the result of antibiotics overuse, which was typical of clinical practice at the end of the last century. Numerous research teams are seeking the way to resolve this potential global antibiotics resistance crisis. The research team from the Regional Centre of Advanced Technologies and Materials together with their colleagues from the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry of Palacký University bets on antibacterial effect of silver nanoparticles, which have been of interest to them for the past 20 years.

It was in Olomouc where scientists drew up detailed specification of the effect of silver nanoparticles on a wide range of bacteria, including highly resistant phyla.  The study published in 2006 in the journal of American Chemical Society Journal of Physical Chemistry B received an immense citation response (Panáček A. et al. J. OF Physical Chem. B 110,  16248-16253, 2006) and caused a boom in studying and applying nanosilver. The team of scientists from RCPTM have already published a number of studies in which they explored and described the high activity of silver nanoparticles with relation to yeasts or the possibility of reactivating the effect of antibiotics on multiresistant bacteria along with the application of nanosilver at very low concentrations, which are non-toxic for use with mammalian cells. “In 2014 we got a patent for a product comprising antibiotics and silver in the form of nanoparticles or a suitable compound. The benefit arises from the fact that antibiotics in combination with low concentrations of silver show antibacterial effect even against originally resistant bacteria. Along with it, some antibiotics reveal synergic effect of both substances, enabling to apply considerably lower concentrations of antibiotics,” explained Aleš Panáček, a physical chemist at RCPTM.

Enhancing the effect of antibiotics by silver nanoparticles raised the question of bacterial resistance. The answer came in the study published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology last year. Scientists from RCPTM in cooperation with their colleagues from the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry of Palacký University and the Centre of the Region Haná for Biotechnological and Agricultural Research not only uncovered a unique resistance mechanism of bacteria to silver nanoparticles but also found a way to overcome it by  pomegranate extracts. This work has been widely recognized and brought Aleš Panáček the ‘President Prize’ of the Czech Science Foundation (GACR) for outstanding results while solving the grant called Study of bacterial resistance elimination using combination of antibiotics with silver compounds or with silver nanoparticles using in vitro, in vivo or in silico methods. The research into the biological effect of nanosilver lead by Aleš Panáček was supported by GACR in another grant 19-22720S aimed at the synthesis of nanostructural materials for elimination of highly resistant and multi-resistant bacteria and for overcoming antibiotic resistance.

While the real application of antibiotics enhanced by nanosilver will take some time, other areas have already deployed silver nanoparticles, e.g. for cannulas, catheters, or treating burns. RCPTM scientists developed a technology, being later patented in Europe and the USA, which allows silver nanoparticles to anchor to various materials using a strong chemical bond. These materials may range from plastic to metal, or fabric. “The technology prevents bacterial films from forming, and a couple of businesses in Europe have already expressed their interest in this technology,” said Radek Zbořil, RCPTM Director.