Effects on Antibiotic Resistance with Silver-Releasing Glass

For more than 200 years, silver has been employed for wound management, and its anti-microbial characteristics have been known since the 19th century.1 When antibiotics were introduced, its direct utilization in the treatment of wounds fell out of favor but its use continued in applications for burns treatment and other conditions on the surface of the body.

Interest in silver has been renewed recently after research involving the utilization of silver with bioactive glasses directly implanted into the body. The unique properties of the glass and silver material enable it to be deployed in areas that antibiotics are unable to reach; while the glass containment also enables better control over the concentration of silver ion released in specific areas.

Bacteria in glass

Image credit: Kateryna Kon | Shutterstock

Challenges with Antibiotic Resistance

The increase of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can cause issues for patients before, during and after surgery is a major issue in all countries around the globe. This includes strains such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which form biofilms on surgical implants and hospital equipment, heightening the bioburden on these surfaces.2

This is an issue for surgical implants and medical implant failure is often a result of infections caused by bacteria living on the surfaces of implants. These biofilms can be hard to eliminate by just using antibiotics, and surgical removal may be required due to the nature of the bacteria and position of the implants.

Fighting Antibiotic Resistance with Silver: How Does Silver Impact Bacteria?

One technique for stopping the growth of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria on surgical implants is to coat them with silver-releasing glass. These glasses are effective in decreasing bacterial adhesion at the surface of implants, and the addition of silver further inhibits the development of biofilms on implant surfaces.3

Among scientists, the exact mechanism of how silver impacts bacteria is debated, but generally, it is thought that the antibacterial action involves the release of Ag+ ions, which interact to disrupt pathogens, hindering its ability to replicate successfully.4,5

Producing Silver-Releasing Glass

Conventional melt-quenching techniques have been successful in creating silver-doped glasses, although issues in creating reproducible and controlled levels of silver lower than the permitted tolerance in humans prevent these methods from being widely adopted.

Other techniques such as sol-gel route have been looked at – this allows much better control over the introduction of silver into the material structure.6 The future of research into these materials involves making sure that there is enough silver to provide effective protection while stopping this silver from leaking into the body too quickly and causing other issues.

One promising technique of activation is the utilization of phosphate-based glasses, which are soluble materials that enable the controlled delivery of the silver ions.5 The two become a single phase by incorporating the ions into the structure of the glass and the rate of release of the silver is established by the speed at which the glass degrades.

To help control urinary tract infections in patients with long-term indwelling catheters, in addition to being utilized in wound dressings to prevent infections, phosphate-based glasses have already proven to be effective in delivering silver ions.5

As the life expectancy of the world’s population is expected to increase, the number of people that need implant surgery is set to grow. This makes research and development of silver-releasing glasses crucial, and the procurement of high-quality research materials is extremely important.

Mo-Sci has extensive experience in the manufacture of biomedical glasses for healthcare. These biomedical glasses are available in sizes ranging from a few microns up to millimeter-sized structures depending on the form of the glass. They can be made into a wide scope of shapes, including porous structures, microspheres, and powders.

Custom solutions can also be created with Mo-Sci’s expert team of technicians and engineers to research, develop and produce custom-made glass to fit a large range of applications.


  1. Clement, J. L. & Jarrett, P. S. Antibacterial Silver. Met. Based. Drugs 1, 467–482 (2007). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2364932/
  2. Valappil, S. P., Knowles, J. C. & Wilson, M. Effect of Silver-Doped Phosphate-Based Glasses on Bacterial Biofilm Growth ᰔ. 74, 5228–5230  (2008). https://aem.asm.org/content/74/16/5228
  3. Cabal, B. et al. A new biocompatible and antibacterial phosphate free glass-ceramic for medical applications. Sci. Rep. 4, 1–9 (2014).  https://www.nature.com/articles/srep05440
  4. Agostino, A. D. et al. Seed mediated growth of silver nanoplates on glass : exploiting the bimodal antibacterial e ff ect by near IR photo-thermal action and Ag + release †. 70414–70423 (2016). https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlehtml/2016/ra/c6ra11608f
  5. Valappil, S. P. et al. Effect of Silver Content on the Structure and Antibacterial Activity of Silver-Doped Phosphate-Based Glasses ᰔ. 51, 4453–4461 (2007). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2168012/
  6. Rahaman, M. N. Bioactive ceramics and glasses for tissue engineering. Tissue Engineering Using Ceramics and Polymers: Second Edition (2014). doi:10.1533/9780857097163.1.67 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B978085709712550003X
  7. Mo-Sci Glass Products https://mo-sci.com/en/products

About Mo-Sci

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Mo-Sci has become a world leader in the research, development and manufacturing of glasses for specialty applications.

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Last updated: Dec 11, 2023 at 2:33 AM


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