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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 21:23 EDT

Wash Your Mouth Out With Silver

March 8, 2012

Yeasts which cause hard-to-treat mouth infections are killed using silver nanoparticles in the laboratory, scientists have found. These yeast infections, caused by Candida albicans and Candida glabrata target the young, old and immuno-compromised. Professor Mariana Henriques, University of Minho, and her colleagues hope to test silver nanoparticles in mouthwash and dentures as a potential preventative measure against these infections.

Professor Henriques and her team, who published their research in the Society for Applied Microbiology’s journal Letters in Applied Microbiology today, looked at the use of different sizes of silver nanoparticles to determine their anti-fungal properties against Candida albicans and Candida glabrata. These two yeasts cause infections including oral thrush and dental stomatitis, a painful infection affecting around seven out of ten denture wearers1. Infections like these are particularly difficult to treat because the microorganisms involved form biofilms2.

The scientists used artificial biofilms in conditions which mimic those of saliva as closely as possible. They then added different sizes and concentrations of silver nanoparticles and found that different sizes of nanoparticles were equally effective at killing the yeasts. Due to the diversity of the sizes of nanoparticles demonstrating anti-fungal properties the researchers hope this will enable the nanoparticles to be used in many different applications.

Some researchers have expressed concerns around the safety of nanoparticle use but the authors stress this research is at an early stage and extensive safety trials will be carried out before any product reaches the market.

Professor Henriques comments: With the emergence of Candida infections which are frequently resistant to the traditional antifungal therapies, there is an increasing need for alternative approaches. So, silver nanoparticles appear to be a new potential strategy to combat these infections. As the nanoparticles are relatively stable in liquid medium they could be developed into a mouthwash solution in the near future.

Moving forward Professor Henriques hopes to integrate silver nanoparticles into dentures which could prevent infections from taking hold.

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