Brass Doorknobs, Flu, and MRSA

Admission time….

I’ve had a couple of sporadic non-resolving “sores” in my scalp and a couple of other spots (like my left shoulder) right where the fingers land after scratching. After a couple showed up, I learned not to scratch a spot then scratch somewhere else. Some resolved on their own. Others sort of “migrated” a bit over the years. (Yes, years. Not an urgent nor really very problematic problem). I’d “tried various things”, including going to the Family Practice doctor AND to the Dermatologist (a couple of times). Generally I got “here’s your salve”… that did nothing.

About a month ago I started making progress (slow, but progress) by using a mix of a fungicidal ointment and Neosporin. Yes, a “shotgun” approach. Several spots resolved, but a couple of the larger / deeper ones (that would sometimes make a small cyst and bleed – about the size of the head of a large pin) while shrinking, were not going very fast. So I was still shopping for “something faster”.

At the drug store, saw a new goo. “Curad Silver Solution”. Silver Chloride at 55 parts per million. I knew that Silver Nitrate was used against viruses (an “old country Doc about 50 years ago put a drop on a ‘mouth sore’ of mine and it immediately was cured, though it took a couple of days to ‘heal over’). He explained that nobody knew why it worked, but most mouth cankers were bacterial and this pretty much killed them.

Well, the New Goo has accelerated the healing rather a lot. To the point where in 4 days I’ve made more progress than in the prior 4 weeks.

That sent me off looking up “antimicrobial {metals}” to see just what the limits were on all this.

In “The Old Days” prior to antibiotics, sliver compounds were more widely used (and I’d known that). Yet many folks recently were being hyped about Silver Medicines as a ‘new thing’ with nano-silver as a reason silver prices were headed to the moon… yet I knew it had always been used (though named “colloidal silver” before ‘nano’ became a buzz phrase).

Was this New Goo REALLY heralding a whole new tech where the sky was the limit? Somewhere in the back of my mind a Standard Mantra was playing: “There is ALWAYS an alternative. There is ALWAYS substitution. There is ALWAYS new technology to displace a Hot High Flyer.”


First up, the Wiki:

Silver salts have antiseptic properties. Until the development and widespread adoption of antibiotics, dilute solutions of AgNO3 used to be dropped into newborn babies’ eyes at birth to prevent contraction of gonorrhea from the mother. Eye infections and blindness of newborns was reduced by this method; incorrect dosage, however, could cause blindness in extreme cases. This protection was first used by Credé in 1881. Fused silver nitrate, shaped into sticks, was traditionally called “lunar caustic”. It is used as a cauterizing agent, for example to remove granulation tissue around a stoma. General Sir James Abbott noted in his journals that in India in 1827 it was infused by a British surgeon into wounds in his arm resulting from the bite of a mad dog to cauterize the wounds and prevent the onset of rabies. Dentists sometimes use silver nitrate infused swabs to heal oral ulcers. Silver nitrate is also used by some podiatrists to kill cells located in the nail bed. Silver nitrate is also used to cauterize superficial blood vessels in the nose to help prevent nose bleeds.
Silver’s antimicrobial activity saw many applications prior to the discovery of pharmaceutical antibiotics, when it fell into near disuse. Its association with argyria made consumers wary and led them to turn away from it when given an alternative.
Although silver nitrate is currently not regulated in water sources by the Environmental Protection Agency, when between 1-5 g of silver have accumulated in the body, a condition called argyria can develop. Argyria is a permanent cosmetic condition in which the skin and internal organs turn a blue-gray color. The United States Environmental Protection Agency had a maximum contaminant limit for silver in water until 1990, but upon determination that argyria did not impact the function of organs affected, removed the regulation. Argyria is more often associated with the consumption of colloidal silver solutions than with silver nitrate, especially at the extremely low concentrations present for the disinfection of water. However, it is still important to consider before ingesting any sort of silver-ion solution.

That Argyria thing is kind of interesting… At about 1 to 5 grams of silver, you turn blue.

Extreme Argyria

Extreme Argyria

Original Image

Argyria (ISV from Greek: ἄργυρος argyros silver + -ia) is a condition caused by improper exposure to chemical forms of the element silver, silver dust, or silver compounds. The most dramatic symptom of argyria is that the skin becomes blue or bluish-grey colored. Argyria may be found as generalized argyria or local argyria. Argyrosis is the corresponding condition related to the eye.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) describes argyria as a “cosmetic problem”, which is not harmful, but it is mildly disfiguring and thus some people find it to be socially debilitating.

Generally, “silver exhibits low toxicity in the human body, and minimal risk is expected due to clinical exposure,” when silver or silver compounds are used in the treatment of external infections or in medical appliances. Lansdown states that “Chronic ingestion or inhalation of silver preparations (especially colloidal silver) can lead to deposition of silver metal/silver sulphide particles in the skin (argyria), eye (argyrosis) and other organs. These are not life-threatening conditions but cosmetically undesirable.” This view is supported by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and other authorities. One death has been reported in the medical literature which the authors felt was due to silver toxicity. In that case, a 71-year-old man developed status epilepticus after repeated oral ingestion of colloidal silver The reference dose, published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 1991, which recommends the estimated daily exposure which is unlikely to incur an appreciable risk of deleterious effects during a lifetime, is 5 µg/kg/d; meaning 5 microgram of silver per kilogram of weight per person each day – about 1 litre of 10 ppm colloidal silver per month for a 66 kg person.

Since at least the early part of the 20th century, doctors have known that silver or silver compounds can cause some areas of the skin and other body tissues to turn gray or blue-gray. Argyria occurs in people who ingest or inhale silver in large quantities over a long period (several months to many years). People who work in factories that manufacture silver can also breathe in silver or its compounds. In the past, some of these workers have become argyric. However, the level of silver in the air and the length of exposure that caused argyria in these workers is not known. Historically, colloidal silver, a liquid suspension of microscopic silver particles, was also used as an internal medication to treat a variety of diseases. In the 1940s they were discontinued due to both the development of safe and effective modern antibiotics and concern about argyria and other side effects of silver products

A prominent case was that of Stan Jones of Montana, a Libertarian candidate for the United States Senate in 2002 and 2006. Jones acquired argyria through consumption of a home-made silver product that he made due to fears that the Year 2000 problem would make antibiotics unavailable. The peculiar colouration of his skin was featured prominently in media coverage of his unsuccessful campaign, though Jones contends that the best-known photo was “doctored”. Jones promised that he was not using his silvery complexion as a gimmick. He continues to promote the use of colloidal silver as a home remedy. He has said that his good health, excepting the unusual skin tone, is the result of his use of colloidal silver.

On December 20, 2007 the world press published stories about Paul Karason, a Californian man whose entire skin gradually turned blue after consuming colloidal silver made by himself with distilled water, salt and silver, and using a silver salve on his face in an attempt to treat problems with his sinus, dermatitis, acid reflux, and other issues. This happened because he drank gallons of colloidal silver per week for years.

So if you decide to play with this stuff, it doesn’t look like it’s very risky to your health, but you might end up looking like a Space Alien…

Speaking of which, this also prompted the “Crazy Idea” that maybe “Grays” are grey because they have a good load of silver in their skin to help prevent infection by “alien” bugs on our planet? Just a thought… ;-)

I must confess to thinking that some silver in the skin might ‘be a good thing’… and wondering if I could get to a ‘light grey’ or barely ‘dusky’ and stop there. Heck, as someone who sunburns if the ‘fridge door is open too long, having some color, ANY color, in the skin might be a ‘very good thing’… Besides, it would make Halloween costumes easy ;-)

There’s a whole lot more, too, to Medical Silver use. From treating wound dressing with silver to silver in replacement implanted joints, bones, whatever.

The medical uses of silver include its incorporation into wound dressings to treat external infections, and its use as an antiseptic and disinfectant in medical appliances. Silver is also promoted within alternative medicine in the form of colloidal silver, although it has not been shown to be safe or effective.

The silver ion (Ag+) is bioactive and in sufficient concentration readily kills bacteria in vitro. Silver also kills bacteria in external wounds in living tissue, so physicians use wound dressings containing silver sulfadiazine (Ag-SD) or silver nanomaterials to treat external infections. Wound dressings containing silver are increasing in importance due to the recent increase of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA. The disinfectant properties of silver are used in medical applications, such as urinary catheters and endotracheal breathing tubes, where the silver content is effective in reducing incidences of catheter-related urinary tract infections and ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP), respectively. Silver is also used in bone prostheses, reconstructive orthopaedic surgery and cardiac devices, as well as on surfaces and fabrics to reduce the spread of infection.

Since the 1990s, “colloidal silver”, a liquid suspension of microscopic silver particles, has been marketed as an alternative medicine, often claiming impressive “cure-all” qualities. The effectiveness of these products has never been scientifically proven, and in some jurisdictions, it is currently illegal to include such claims in product advertisements. Medical authorities and publications advise against the ingestion of colloidal silver preparations, because of their lack of proven effectiveness and because of the risk of adverse side effects, such as argyria, a condition in which, over time, the skin acquires a blue-grey discolouration. Historically, colloidal silver was also used as an internal medication to treat a variety of diseases. Their use was largely discontinued in the 1940s, due to the development of safe and effective modern antibiotics and concern about adverse side effects.

I find it funny that they rant against “alternative medicine” and “colloidal silver” when silver in a variety of forms, including the new ‘nano’ and the older ‘colloidal’ have been known to work for thousands of years…

Silver has had some medicinal uses going back for centuries. The Phoenicians are said to have stored water, wine, and vinegar in silver bottles to prevent spoiling. In the early 1900s, people would put silver coins in milk bottles to prolong the milk’s freshness. Hippocrates, the “father of medicine”, wrote that silver had beneficial healing and antidisease properties. In the early 1900s, silver gained regulatory approval as an antimicrobial agent. Prior to the introduction of antibiotics, colloidal silver was used as a germicide and disinfectant. Physicians used it as an eyedrop for ophthalmic problems, for various infections, and sometimes internally for diseases such as tropical sprue, epilepsy, gonorrhea, and the common cold. Colloidal silver preparations (CSP) were used to treat or prevent gonorrhea and gonorrheal conjunctivitis. Although “silver products were infrequently promoted for oral use, benefits have been even more questionable.” With the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, the use of silver as an antimicrobial agent diminished. One well known, highly successful, brand name, silver colloid product in the period before 1940 was Argyrol.

So this stuff has literally been around, and used, since Ancient History began… So much for a “new” discovery of silver as a medicinal…

These folks claim to have a “New” form that they say works against all sorts of stuff. Even viruses.

But they won’t let me quote any of their stuff (right click blocking) and, frankly, it looks like ‘just another silver solution’ to me, so they claim a lot of stuff and are hyper protective of any ‘copy a paragraph to make a teaser’. Seems at bit “puff” like to me.

From another link we get an indication for viruses, so maybe it’s not so unlikely:

Even warts:

Int J Dermatol. 2007 Feb;46(2):215-7.
Efficacy of 10% silver nitrate solution in the treatment of common warts: a placebo-controlled, randomized, clinical trial.
Ebrahimi S, Dabiri N, Jamshidnejad E, Sarkari B.

Faculty of Medicine, Yasuj University of Medical Sciences, Yasuj, Iran.


Warts are a common skin lesion, especially in children and young adults, caused by human papillomaviruses. So far, there is no definitive therapy for warts and the treatment is modified regularly to obtain the best result with the least discomfort to the patient. The aim of this placebo-controlled clinical trial was to evaluate the clinical efficacy, tolerability, and safety of 10% silver nitrate solution for the treatment of common warts.

Sixty individuals attending pediatrics and dermatology clinics and health centers in Yasuj, south-west of Iran, were recruited. The patients were divided into two groups: 30 patients received 10% silver nitrate solution (case group) and 30 control patients received black ink (placebo group). Silver nitrate solution was used every other day for 3 weeks. After 3 weeks, the patients were evaluated for healing, and treatment was continued for another 3 weeks if the lesions were still present.

Complete regression of lesions was achieved in 19 of the 30 (63.33%) case patients. No significant side-effect was noted in the treated patients apart from temporary brownish discoloration of the skin which resolved 1 week after treatment.

This study demonstrated that 10% silver nitrate solution can be used effectively for the treatment of warts with no serious complications.

2/3 isn’t 100%, but it’s pretty darned good! Especially since warts can be quite deep and the solution might not have gotten that far in many cases.

I also remember, back in the way back days when we had individual responsibility and freedom, I’d gotten a bottle of nitric acid from the pharmacist and made my own silver nitrate from an old silver dime. It’s pretty easy to make, really, and quite dirt cheap. Add chloride ions and you get a silver chloride precipitate (how photographic material is made). So going from a lump of silver to either of those two medicines is ‘darned easy’.

From the silver nitrate wiki:

The silver cation, Ag+, reacts quickly with halide sources to produce the insoluble silver halide, which is a cream precipitate if Br- is used, a white precipitate if Cl- is used and a yellow precipitate if I- is used. This reaction is commonly used in inorganic chemistry to abstract halides:

Ag+ + X− (aq) → AgX

where X− = Cl−, Br−, or I−.

Which was part of why I wanted to make some of my own, as a way to test for halide ions.

But the simple fact is that with a bit of silver and some nitric acid (not too hard to make either, now that buying it is hard to do…) then adding some chloride source (like table salt) you can get a nice colloidal silver chloride precipitate and without paying $6 for a 1/2 ounce tube of 55 ppm… Though frankly, I first thought of just extracting some from some old photo printing paper I have that’s a few years past expiration… Just soak off the gelatine and then separate…

But I digress…

Back at that “medicinal uses” wiki, we find that burn victims and MRSA cases are major beneficiaries of our rediscovering the “old ways” of the 1940s back to the ancient Greeks…

According to Atiyeh et al. (2007), “The gold standard in topical burn treatment is silver sulfadiazine (Ag-SD), a useful antibacterial agent for burn wound treatment”. They do note, however, that silver-impregnated dressings do sometimes result in a slower healing process. Silver sulfadiazine cream (SSD Cream) replaced colloidal silver as the most common delivery system for using silver on the surface of burn wounds to control infection in the 1970s.

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of a range of different silver-impregnated wound dressings.

Laboratory studies at the Biochemical Materials Research and Development Center of Jiaxing College, China, have shown silver-containing alginate fibres provide a sustained release of silver ions when in contact with wound exudates, and are “highly effective against bacteria”. A study administered by the Hull York Medical School found an antimicrobial barrier dressing containing silver provided “a highly effective and reliable barrier to the spread of MRSA into the wider hospital.”

More recently, dressings incorporating nanocrystalline silver or activated silver-impregnated substances have become available, which deliver higher concentrations of the active silver ion. As of 2006, more “than 10 dressings containing pure silver” were available. In particular, silver is being used with alginate, a naturally occurring biopolymer derived from seaweed, in a range of products designed to prevent infections as part of wound management procedures, particularly applicable to burn victims.

Wound dressings containing silver are increasing in importance due to the increase of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which has imposed clinical limits on the use of antibiotics. Chopra[34] states topical silver is regaining popularity in the management of open wounds, “due largely to the spread of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and the resultant reduction in first-line antibiotic prescribing”, and “[s]ome silver-based dressings appear to provide an effective alternative to antibiotics in the management of wound infection.” Silver has proven broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity that includes antibiotic-resistant bacteria, with minimal toxicity toward mammalian cells at low concentrations, and has a less likely tendency than antibiotics to induce resistance due to its activity at multiple bacterial target sites.

All of which leads me to think that hanging onto your last “silver round” in a survival situation and using it to make first aid ‘kit’ would be better than spending it. Heck, as a post Apocalypse currency, you would likely get a heck of a lot more out of using the silver to make things than selling it…

I have an emergency water filter with a ceramic element that is ‘perpetual’. It is silver impregnated to disinfect the water. Don’t know if they are still available, I got mine back in about 1980. Clearly it also is of value to have a silver jug for storing water (many airplanes have the water tank ‘silvered’ to assure disinfection). Perhaps it’s of value to check out the ‘silver service’ part of the home furnishing store… ( In ancient times, folks put a silver coin in wine or milk so they would keep longer. I can see merit to a silvered milk jug and wine carafe… )

General Effect

Chasing down the Silver thread lead to a general term for the use of metals as antimicrobials. Oligodynamic.

The oligodynamic effect (Greek: oligos = few, Greek: dynamis = force) was discovered in 1893 by the Swiss Karl Wilhelm von Nägeli as a toxic effect of metal ions on living cells, algae, molds, spores, fungi, viruses, prokaryotic and eukaryotic microorganisms, even in relatively low concentrations. This antimicrobial effect is shown by ions of mercury, silver, copper, iron, lead, zinc, bismuth, gold, aluminium, and other metals.

That’s a pretty long list of metals available as ‘alternatives’ to Silver. Mercury was common in Mercurochrome when I was a kid. A dirt cheap skin antiseptic that worked very well, even if it left you with orange splotches ;-). Now banned in the USA for no good reason. Paranoia about all things mercury is all I can figure. (The amount of mercury was so low as to be laughable as a ‘risk’…) Lead isn’t a surprise (it’s toxic to all sorts of things).

So that leaves, high on the list of “likely to work and likely to be not too toxic to people”: Copper, Iron, Zinc, Bismuth, Gold, and Aluminum. Along with whatever “other metals” might be. Pretty long list means many of probable successes… That “Silver as miracle metal” is likely subject to ‘substitution’ on many fronts if it gets too expensive.

Gold is way expensive, so I’d expect it only to be used in ‘special cases’ where only it works. Aluminum ought to have a lot of potential, but in ‘digging around’ I mostly found it listed as a ‘laundry list item’ in folks making patent applications for some process or other where they canonically listed all ologodynamic metals so as to gain maximum patent coverage. Still, it looks like there is plenty of research room with Aluminum. Bismuth didn’t turn up much either, but some folks ARE looking. That, and we get an idea what the other metals are too:

Zentralbl Bakteriol Mikrobiol Hyg B. 1985 Dec;182(1):95-101.
[Oligodynamic action of 17 different metals on Bacillus subtilis, Enterobacteriaceae, Legionellaceae, Micrococcaceae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa].
[Article in German]
Müller HE.

The oligodynamic action of the pure metals aluminium, antimony, bismuth, cadmium, cobalt, copper, gold, iron, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel, platinum, silver, tin, titanium, and zinc on Bacillus subtilis (1 strain), Enterobacteriaceae (26 strains), Legionellaceae (13 strains), Micrococcaceae (6 strains), and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (4 strains) was investigated using an agar diffusion test. B. subtilis and Legionellaceae exhibited the highest susceptibility. The apathogenic micrococci and staphylococci were more susceptible to oligodynamic action of some metals than S. aureus. The group of gramnegative rods was the most resistant. The susceptibility of the different bacteria seems to be very different. Apart from the known oligodynamic action of some heavy metals the activity of antimony, cobalt, gold, and platinum should be mentioned.

So now we get to add antimony, cadmium (that is horridly toxic to people, so a bad candidate), cobalt, manganese, nickel, platinum, tin, and titanium to the list. The “special mention” of platinum would be more interesting were it not about as expensive as gold… Cobalt, though, is pretty cheap and it, too, gets special mention.

Clearly though, with that list, there’s plenty of potential competition for Silver. But what stands out to me are Copper and Tin. That’s Bronze. And Copper and Zinc (which I learned as Zink back when we used a more Germanic English in chemistry…) make Brass. Bronze and Brass ought to make decent antibacterial surfaces. Maybe we can ‘get away with’ a brass water jug and a bronze drinking cup… ;-)

Brass Balls and Bronze Plates

I’m going to put copper as pure metal in here too. It’s all related. Copper sits below silver in the periodic chart. In fact, most of the metals listed cluster each side of Copper and descending in a slanted line downward (parallel with the semimetals line) to the bottom right. Titanium is off by itself in column 4, position 22, and might imply that exploring below it would be fruitful too. Chemical properties are usually similar in a vertical slice.

So back at Copper.

Copper and its alloys (brasses, bronzes, cupronickel, copper-nickel-zinc, and others) are natural antimicrobial materials. Ancient civilizations exploited the antimicrobial properties of copper long before the concept of microbes became understood in the nineteenth century. In addition to several copper medicinal preparations, it was also observed centuries ago that water contained in copper vessels or transported in copper conveyance systems was of better quality (i.e., no or little visible slime formation) than water contained or transported in other materials.

The antimicrobial properties of copper are still under active investigation. Molecular mechanisms responsible for the antibacterial action of copper have been a subject of intensive research. Scientists are also actively demonstrating the intrinsic efficacies of copper alloy “touch surfaces” to destroy a wide range of microorganisms that threaten public health.

OK, so we’re relearning something known thousands of years ago. Copper and Bronze good, plastic not so good… But it’s nice to know that putting copper pipes in your home could also be protecting you from ‘bugs in the water’ and that a nice bronze plate is likely to be antimicrobial too. Oh, and I’m now shopping for some brass or bronze wine glasses and beer mugs ;-) It also looks like a “Brass Doorknob” is a Very Good Thing. But not the ‘faux brass’ that’s become more or less standard in cheap doorknobs. No, we need the real deal…

So how ‘robust’ is this effect? And is it likely to be a decent competitor to Silver?

In 1973, researchers at Battelle Columbus Laboratories conducted a comprehensive literature, technology and patent search that traced the history of understanding the “bacteriostatic and sanitizing properties of copper and copper alloy surfaces” which demonstrated that copper, in very small quantities, has the power to control a wide range of molds, fungi, algae and harmful microbes. Of the 312 citations mentioned in the review across the time period 1892–1973, the observations below are noteworthy:

Copper inhibits Actinomucor elegans, Aspergillus niger, Bacterium linens, Bacillus megaterium, Bacillus subtilis, Brevibacterium erythrogenes, Candida utilis, Penicillium chrysogenum, Rhizopus niveus, Saccharomyces mandshuricus, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae in concentrations above 10 g/L.

Torulopsis utilis is completely inhibited at 0.04 g/L copper concentrations.

Tubercle bacillus is inhibited by copper as simple cations or complex anions in concentrations from 0.02 to 0.2 g/L.

Achromobacter fischeri and Photobacterium phosphoreum growth is inhibited by metallic copper.

Paramecium caudatum cell division is reduced by copper plates placed on Petri dish covers containing infusoria and nutrient media.

Poliovirus is inactivated within 10 minutes of exposure to copper with ascorbic acid.

A subsequent paper probed some of copper’s antimicrobial mechanisms and cited no fewer than 120 investigations into the efficacy of copper’s action on microbes. The authors noted that the antimicrobial mechanisms are very complex and take place in many ways, both inside cells and in the interstitial spaces between cells.

That looks pretty robust to me. And we’re still learning more. Don’t think I’m going to get all THAT worked up about Silver as “special”…

Looking at ‘touch surfaces’ that page has a summary, but there enough going on that the topic gets a page of it’s own:

Main article: Antimicrobial copper touch surfaces

Copper alloy surfaces have intrinsic properties to destroy a wide range of microorganisms. In the interest of protecting public health, especially in heathcare environments with their susceptible patient populations, an abundance of peer-reviewed antimicrobial efficacy studies have been conducted in the past 10 years regarding copper’s efficacy to destroy E. coli O157:H7, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Staphylococcus, Clostridium difficile, influenza A virus, adenovirus, and fungi. Stainless steel was also investigated since it is such an important surface material in today’s healthcare environments. The studies cited here, plus others directed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, resulted in the 2008 registration of 274 different copper alloys as certified antimicrobial materials that have public health benefits.

I predict a widespread, if slow, conversion from the Modern Stainless Steel look in hospitals back to the “campy / old fashioned” bronze / brass look… Especially once some lawyer sues a hospital that has an MRSA outbreak and asks the Administrator on the stand “And just WHY did you keep stainless steel touch surfaces in place, KNOWING that they could harbor this LETHAL disease, while brass or bronze would have killed it, saving my poor client?…”

From the detail page:

Antimicrobial copper alloy touch surfaces are surfaces that are made from alloys of the metal copper, such as brass and bronze. The phrase “touch surfaces” means all the various kinds of surfaces (such as door knobs, railings, tray tables, etc.) that are often touched by people at work or in everyday life, especially (for example) in hospitals and clinics.

Touch surfaces that are in frequent use and that are not made with copper alloys can easily accumulate a variety of harmful microbes (viruses, bacteria, etc.). These microbes can often survive on touch surfaces for surprisingly long periods of time (e.g., for more than 30 days on some popular materials). However, copper and copper alloys have a natural ability to kill harmful microbes[1] relatively rapidly – often within two hours or less (i.e. copper alloy surfaces are antimicrobial).

This natural ability of copper alloys to kill a wide range of microbes deposited on the alloys’ surfaces has been proven by an extensive body of research. The research also suggests that if touch surfaces are made with copper alloys, the reduced or totally destroyed microbial populations on the antimicrobial alloys may ultimately reduce the incidence of transmission of disease-causing organisms.
Copper alloy surfaces have intrinsic properties to destroy a wide range of microorganisms. In the interest of protecting public health, especially in heathcare environments with their susceptible patient populations, an abundance of peer-reviewed antimicrobial efficacy studies have been and continue to be conducted around the world regarding copper’s efficacy to destroy E. coli O157:H7, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Staphylococcus, Clostridium difficile, influenza A virus, adenovirus, and fungi.

Much of this antimicrobial efficacy work has been or is currently being conducted at the University of Southampton and Northumbria University (United Kingdom), University of Stellenbosch (South Africa), Panjab University (India), University of Chile (Chile), Kitasato University (Japan), the Instituto do Mar[3] and University of Coimbra (Portugal), and the University of Nebraska and Arizona State University (U.S.A.)

In the USA, in order to qualify copper and its alloys as registered antimicrobial substances under that nation’s federal pesticide regulations, an extensive additional body of efficacy testing under Good Laboratory Practice guidelines by an EPA-approved laboratory was required by the USEPA. After these tests were concluded in 2008, registrations of 282 different copper alloys were granted.
Clinical trials are being conducted on microbial strains unique to individual healthcare facilities around the world to evaluate to what extent copper alloys can reduce the incidence of infection in hospital environments.

The success of these clinical trials to date, which are summarized here, are prompting hospitals around the world to specify antimicrobial copper touch surfaces as an additional weapon in the fight against infection.
In the United Kingdom, around 300,000 patients contract nosocomial infections each year and at least 5,000 patients die of complications from infections contracted in hospitals.[14]

For these reasons, a cross-over clinical trial (a test method designed to eliminate variability bias from patients, staff, cleaning efficacy, outbreaks, etc.) evaluating antimicrobial copper alloys was carried out at Selly Oak Hospital over an 18-month period in 2007-2008 by the University Hospital Birmingham NHS Trust and Aston University.

Frequently touched surfaces typically manufactured with standard materials (i.e., plastic, chrome, aluminum) were replaced with copper alloys. These included a copper alloy set of sink tap handles (60% Cu, 40% Zn) and a ward entrance door push plate (70% Cu, 30% Zn).

Contamination reductions of 90-100% were observed for Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumanii, Enterococcus spp., and Candida albicans on the copper alloy surfaces versus the non-copper standard surfaces. A microorganism reduction of 100% was observed on the hot tap copper alloy handle.

The high degree of clinical performance suggested that copper alloy surfaces may increase the effectiveness of existing infection control practices and may lower the risk of infections acquired in healthcare facilities.

90% to 100% reductions in contamination is A Very Big Deal!

I’m now much more interested in springing the money for some copper pans, brass fixtures, whatever. I’m not paranoid about bugs, I just like the look of copper and bronze / brass and now have an excuse ;-)

Based on the results of this and other laboratory and clinical studies, St. Francis Private Hospital, a 140-bed facility located in Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland, decided to become the first hospital in the world to fully specify hygienic copper door handles throughout its facility as part of its infection control program. A full upgrade of all door furniture (i.e., 250 doorsets, incorporating handles, push plates and privacy locks) to antimicrobial copper in the hospital and nursing home commenced in January 2010.

Healthcare architects in the United Kingdom are now specifying antimicrobial copper. Refurbishment projects specifying copper products are anticipated across NHS Trust facilities.

I smell a business opportunity. A great big one, globally. Now I just need to figure out what companies are best situated to take advantage of it. Wonder who makes “hygienic copper door handles”?

BTW, this also suggest that some of those “hokey” brass and copper “health bracelets” might have actually been doing something after all.

Chile even went so far as to test brass pens:

In Chile, 70,000 nosocomial infections are reported each year, most commonly from common hospital-borne pathogens such as S. aureus, P. aeruginosa and A.baumanii.

In a 30-week clinical trial at the Hospital del Cobre, in Calama, extensive microbial analyses were implemented at the facility’s intensive care unit (ICU). Nine hundred ninety copper surfaces from 90 rooms containing 6 different copper objects were studied against an equivalent number of rooms and surfaces containing non-copper objects. Over-the-bed tables were made from copper alloy C70600. Bedrails were clad with copper alloy C11000 foils. Visitor chairs were fitted with copper alloy C70600 armrests. Copper alloy C71000 intravenous poles were provided. Writing pens used to input data on a touch screen were made from brass (70% Cu, 30% Zn).

Results of this clinical trial demonstrated an approximately 90% reduction of microorganisms on the copper items compared to the controls after ten weeks. A reduction in the total microbial burden was seen for each class of microbe evaluated. Furthermore, continuous antimicrobial activity of copper persisted throughout the study.

Copper was effective in reducing microbial loads on all 6 surfaces tested (i.e., bed rails by 91%, bed levers by 82%, tray tables by 83%, chair arms by 92%, monitor pen by 49%, and IV poles by 88%).

Wonder where I can get a Brass Pen? And do brass ballpoint pens have Brass Balls?… Just wonderin’…

Japan too:

Researchers from the Kitasato University School of Medicine conducted antimicrobial studies of S. aureus, E. coli, and P. aeruginosa on various Japanese copper alloy coins and on copper alloy plates. The microbes were strains from hospital environments. Copper and its nickel-silver, cupronickel, and brass alloys were found to kill the bacteria within a short time. In another experiment, bacterial colonies were investigated on ball point pens made with and without copper alloys. Total bacterial colonies on the copper pens were much lower than on the non-copper pens: 2.1 CFU versus 47.8 CFU. Staphyloccocus counts on copper ball point pens were also much lower: 0.7 CFUs versus 20.8 CFUs on non-copper pens

It is important to note that the rate of bacterial death means that any test during the daytime is likely picking up things recently deposited. After a few hours, the bugs will be dead. So when they find ‘some not all killed’, that mostly reflects ‘some are newly arrived bugs’.

There is a lot more in that ‘copper touch surfaces link’ so I’m going to skip a lot of it. Just some interesting bits:

Various metals were evaluated for their antimicrobial efficacies, including copper alloys, zinc, nickel, tin, silver, and gold. Antimicrobial efficacies generally followed Lewis acidity values of the various metals. Silver, a prohibitively expensive precious metal, had the highest bactericidal activity; copper came in second. The study also found that contact dermatitis allergies rarely occur if copper is used as a hygienic touch material

So sliver is best, but copper is close behind it. We also find out that the “Lewis Acidity” is an indicator. And yes, “there’s a wiki for that”:

The bactericidal activity of copper was also tested against two strains of MRSA and S. aureus in vitro to determine whether copper alloys are effective in preventing the spread of contamination on the touch surface products used in the hospital ward. MRSA and S. aureus counts fell below detection limits within 180 minutes. The results indicated that copper has a strong bactericidal effect against S. aureus, including MRSA.

They went on to look at putting copper plate on the floor and found it reduced MRSA. One can’t help but wonder what a brass floor would look like…

South Africa gave copper a try:

Multidrug-resistant and extremely drug resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) is responsible for the spread of tuberculosis in South African hospitals. Test strains of Candida albicans, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Klebsiella pneumoniae meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and MTB were isolated from South African patients at a hospital’s intensive care unit in order to establish the minimum in-vitro copper concentrations to produce sterilization against these microbes and yeast. Acinetobacter baumannii was isolated from a patient in a burn unit and two clinical strains of MTB were collected and tested.

Copper and its alloys demonstrated antimicrobial activities against multiple-antibiotic-resistant nosocomial bacteria and C. albicans isolated from the hospital, whereas stainless steel and PVC did not. Copper and its alloys showed a marked inhibitory effect (88-98%) on MTB despite the strain’s drug resistance. The researchers concluded that the minimum concentration of copper to be an effective antimicrobial agent is >55% for yeasts and bacteria. Higher concentrations of copper were found to be necessary to inhibit MTB.

TB? Wow. You know, given that multiply drug resistant TB is putting us back in the era of cutting out chunks of your lungs and years in isolation to cure you; the idea of being a Blue Man is kind of attractive… I know if I’m ever looking TB in the face, the idea of experimenting with Blue and pretending to be an Andorian is not a bad alternative. (On the presumption that if copper works, silver would work better).

In the USA the DOD is involved. (Makes sense, especially as there’s a lot of infection potential and much less opportunity for surface sterilization in field hospitals).

Early results disclosed in 2011 indicate that the coppered rooms demonstrated a 97% reduction in surface pathogens versus the non-coppered rooms. This reduction is the same level achieved by “terminal” cleaning regimens conducted after patients vacate their rooms. Furthermore, of critical importance to health care professionals, the preliminary results indicated that patients in the coppered ICU rooms had a 40.4% lower risk of contracting a hospital acquired infection versus patients in non-coppered ICU rooms. The U.S. Department of Defense investigation contract, which is ongoing, will also evaluate the effectiveness of copper alloy touch surfaces to prevent the transfer of microbes to patients and the transfer of microbes from patients to touch surfaces, as well as the potential efficacy of copper-alloy based components to improve indoor air quality.

That’s mighty darned effective.

Back at the general copper wiki:

Efficacy on brass, bronze, copper-nickel alloys

Brasses, which were frequently used for doorknobs and push plates in decades past, also demonstrate bactericidal efficacies, but within a somewhat longer time frame than pure copper. All nine brasses tested were almost completely bactericidal (over 99.9% kill rate) at 20 °C within 60–270 minutes. Many brasses were almost completely bactericidal at 4 °C within 180–360 minutes.

The rate of total microbial death on four bronzes varied from within 50–270 minutes at 20 °C, and from 180 to 270 minutes at 4 °C.

I can only wonder how much death and infections increased with the move from “old” brass and bronze esthetics to the “new and modern” stainless steel look.

The kill rate of E. coli O157 on copper-nickel alloys increased with increasing copper content. Zero bacterial counts at room temperature were achieved after 105–360 minutes for five of the six alloys. Despite not achieving a complete kill, alloy C71500 achieved a 4-log drop within the six-hour test, representing a 99.99% reduction in the number of live organisms.

Efficacy on stainless steel

Unlike copper alloys, stainless steel (S30400) does not exhibit any degree of bactericidal properties.
This material, which is one of the most common touch surface materials in the healthcare industry, allows toxic E. coli O157:H7 to remain viable for weeks. Near-zero bacterial counts are not observed even after 28 days of investigation. Epifluorescence photographs have demonstrated that E. coli O157:H7 is almost completely killed on copper alloy C10200 after just 90 minutes at 20 °C; whereas a substantial number of pathogens remain on stainless steel S30400.

I won’t quote it here, but copper also kills various viruses including influenza, adenovirus, and fungi. There was an interesting oblique reference to aluminum:

The antifungal efficacy of copper was compared to aluminium on the following organisms that can cause human infections: Aspergillus spp., Fusarium spp., Penicillium chrysogenum, Aspergillus niger and Candida albicans. An increased die-off of fungal spores was found on copper surfaces compared with aluminium. Aspergillus niger growth occurred on the aluminium coupons; growth was inhibited on and around copper coupons.

So it looks like Aluminum is not all that good, even if better than stainless steel.

The thought also comes to mind that if Copper is so good at killing bacteria, it ought to be possible to make a bronze or brass tooth cap (instead of gold or stainless steel) that would be prone to keeping town the bacteria around the margin of the cap. It would be important to assure that there was no toxic load of copper or other metals from the cap and that they were not subject to excess erosion by acidic food and drink. But a suitable alloy ought to be “doable” IMHO. And a lot cheaper than gold.

Zinc / Zink

While most of the Zinc articles had to do with Zinc Oxide, there were other zinc antimicrobials as well. Still, nice to know that the zinc oxide nose cover might also be antibacterial.

《Journal of South China University of Technology(Natural Science Edition)》 2007-07

Preparation and Antibacterial Properties of Zinc-Doped Hydroxyapatite Nanoparticles

Lin Ying-guang Yang Zhuo-ru Cheng Jiang(School of Chemical and Energy Engineering,South China Univ.of Tech.,Guangzhou 510640,Guangdong,China)

Hydroxyapatite(HAP) nanoparticles and zinc-doped hydroxyapatite(ZnHAP) nanoparticles with a Zn/ molar ratio γ of 0~0.2 were prepared by means of sol-gel-supercritical fluid drying.Then,FTIR,XRD and TEM,XRD were adopted to reveal the effects of zinc doping on the structure,crystal shape and crystall-inity of the prepared nanoparticles.Moreover,the bacterial inhibition zone and antibacterial ratio were tested to investigate the antibacterial properties of HAP and ZnHAP nanoparticles to Escherichia coli,Staphylococcus aureus and Lactobacillus.The results are as follows.The sol-gel-supercritical fluid drying is an effective method to prepare HAP and ZnHAP nanoparticles;zinc can be partially doped in HAP as the substitute of Ca to form ZnHAP;after the doping of zinc,the vibration frequencies of IR bonds in ZnHAP increase,the transmittance and the crystallinity decrease with the γ value increasing,and the morphology of the nanoparticles changes from short rod shape to needle shape;both the HAP nanoparticles and the ZnHAP nanoparticles with a γ value of less than 0.04 possess antibacterial properties only in dynamical forcible contact with tested bacteria at a nanoparticles content of 0.1 g/mL;the ZnHAP nanoparticles with a γ value of more than 0.08 possess an antibacterial ability which increases with γ value at the same content no matter whether it is in static or dynamic contact with the tested bacteria.All of the results indicate that the antibacterial property is improved after the zinc doping.

So looks like there are also a large number of opportunities to make ceramic and ceramic like composites that have antimicrobial activity. This likely lets a metal that is ‘on the edge’ get closer to the sweet spot in the middle of that band of activity via shifting the actual activity presented by the ion in the matrix.

Synthesis and characterization of zinc/iron oxide composite nanoparticles and their antibacterial properties

Tamar Gordona,
Benny Perlsteina,
Ofir Houbarab,
Israel Felnerc,
Ehud Baninb,
Shlomo Margela, Corresponding author contact information, E-mail the corresponding author

a The Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, Department of Chemistry, Bar Ilan University, 52900 Ramat Gan, Israel
b The Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, The Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, Bar Ilan University, 52900 Ramat Gan, Israel
c Racah Institute of Physics, The Hebrew University, 91904 Jerusalem, Israel


Inorganic metal oxides may serve as effective disinfectants,
due to their relatively non-toxic profile, chemical stability and efficient antibacterial activity. Among metal oxide nanoparticles, zinc oxide demonstrates significant bacterial growth inhibition on a broad spectrum of bacteria, mainly by catalysis of reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation from water and oxygen. Aqueous suspensions of ZnO nanoparticles (ZnO nanofluids) are the preferred formulation for using the antibacterial agent in liquid phases and for the incorporation of the nanoparticles in different commercial products. However, ZnO nanoparticles in aqueous media tend to aggregate into large flocculates, due to their hydrophobic nature, and thus do not interact with microorganisms effectively. In this study, zinc oxide was combined with iron oxide to produce magnetic composite nanoparticles with improved colloidal aqueous stability, together with adequate antibacterial activity. For this purpose, the Zn/Fe oxide composite nanoparticles were synthesized by basic hydrolysis of Fe2+ and Zn2+ ions in aqueous continuous phase containing gelatin. The obtained composite nanoparticles were composed of iron oxide, zinc oxide and zinc ferrite phases. The effect of the weight ratio [Zn]/[Fe] of the composite nanoparticles on their properties (composition, size, magnetic behavior and colloidal stability) was elucidated. The antibacterial activity of these nanoparticles was tested against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli and was found to be dependent on the weight ratio [Zn]/[Fe], i.e., the higher the ratio, the higher the antibacterial activity. In addition, the activity against Staphylococcus aureus was significantly higher than that observed against Escherichia coli.

So looks like letting your brass age and oxidize a bit doesn’t hurt…

Antibacterial, antifungal and deodorant functions
of super fine powder of zinc oxides

We have been selling zinc oxide super fine powder as UV shielding for various applications. Recently, we have confirmed they also have antibacterial, antifungal and deodorant functions. Most of conventional antibacterial, antifungal or deodorant agents are organic and problems have been pointed out such as bleeding out from resin and continuity of the effects. They also have safety problems when they are used in the conditions contacting a human body or foods. On the other hand, zinc oxide super fine powder does not have the problem of bleeding out due to the mechanism of dispersing within the resin, and the effects last long and stable because it is inorganic. Moreover, zinc oxide is an inorganic compound highly safe to a human body, whose use is allowed in the standards for cosmetic raw materials and in the Japanese pharmacopoeia.

It goes on from there at great depth, with some emphasis on odor causing bacteria. Looks like zinc oxide can make a reasonable emergency deodorant too ;-)

Of interest to me is that a simple tube of zinc oxide in an emergency kit has great potential as a surface antibiotic ointment. IF things get really bad, it’s not hard to make either.

Platinum Group Metals and Gold

Also used in medicine already. And in some odd ways. Interesting to note that Gold can also cause skin discoloration. But you still end up with a generally blue-gray color (though some describe it as a bit purple)

Chrysiasis (Gk, chrysos – ‘gold’, osis – ‘condition of’) is a dermatological condition induced by the parenteral administration of gold salts, usually for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Such treatment has been superseded as the best practice for treating the disease because of “numerous side effects and monitoring requirments [sic], their limited efficacy, and very slow onset of action”.

Similar to silver, a gold preparation used parenterally for a long period may rarely produce a permanent skin pigmentation – especially if the skin is exposed to sunlight or artificial ultraviolet radiation.

The skin’s pigmentation (in this condition) has been described as uniformly gray, grayish purple, slate gray, or grayish blue, and is usually limited to exposed portions of the body. It may involve the conjunctivae over the scleras but usually not the oral mucosa. Location of pigment predominantly in the upper dermis leads to the blue component of skin color through the scattering phenomenon. It is much less likely to be deposited in the nails and hair.

Chrysiasis was said to have been much more common when medicines containing traces of gold were used for treatment of tuberculosis (commonplace forms of treatment nearly fifty years ago). Treatments containing gold traces were also used to treat cases of rheumatoid arthritis – but because the dose used for tuberculosis was higher than for arthritis, it has not afflicted many subscribing to such treatments.

It looks like you can get anti-cancer properties out of some of the compounds:

Anticancer and antimicrobial metallopharmaceutical agents based on palladium, gold, and silver N-heterocyclic carbene complexes.
by Sriparna Ray, Renu Mohan, Jay K Singh, Manoja K Samantaray, Mobin M Shaikh, Dulal Panda, Prasenjit Ghosh

Journal of the American Chemical Society (2007)

Volume: 129, Issue: 48, Publisher: American Chemical Society, Pages: 15042-15053

PubMed: 17988129

Available from


Complete synthetic, structural, and biomedical studies of two Pd complexes as well as Au and Ag complexes of 1-benzyl-3-tert-butylimidazol-2-ylidene are reported. Specifically, trans-1-benzyl-3-tert-butylimidazol-2-ylidenePd(pyridine)Cl2 (1a) was synthesized from the reaction of 1-benzyl-3-tert-butylimidazolium chloride (1) with PdCl2 in the presence of K2CO3 as a base. The other palladium complex, 1-benzyl-3-tert-butylimidazol-2-ylidene2PdCl2 (1b), and a gold complex, 1-benzyl-3-tert-butylimidazol-2-ylideneAuCl (1c), were synthesized by following a transmetallation route from the silver complex, 1-benzyl-3-tert-butylimidazol-2-ylideneAgCl (1d), by treatment with (COD)PdCl2 and (SMe2)AuCl, respectively. The silver complex 1d in turn was synthesized by the reaction of 1 with Ag2O. The molecular structures of 1a-d have been determined by X-ray diffraction studies. Biomedical studies revealed that, while the palladium complexes 1a and 1b displayed potent anticancer activity, the gold (1c) and silver (1d) complexes exhibited significant antimicrobial properties. Specifically, 1b showed strong antiproliferative activity against three types of human tumor cells, namely, cervical cancer (HeLa), breast cancer (MCF-7), and colon adenocarcinoma (HCT 116), in culture. The antiproliferative activity of 1b was found to be considerably stronger than that of cisplatin. The 1b complex inhibited tumor cell proliferation by arresting the cell cycle progression at the G2 phase, preventing the mitotic entry of the cell. We present evidence suggesting that the treated cells underwent programmed cell death through a p53-dependent pathway. Though both the gold (1c) and silver (1d) complexes showed antimicrobial activity toward Bacillus subtilis, 1c was found to be ca. 2 times more potent than 1d.

That ‘cisplatin’ reference is important, as it is a Platinum compound that is a common anti-cancer drug.

Platinum anti-cancer drugs

Platinum has the ability, in certain chemical forms, to inhibit the division of living cells. The discovery of this property in 1962 led to the development of platinum-based drugs to treat a wide range of cancers. Cisplatin, the first platinum anti-cancer drug, began to be used in treatment in 1977. Testicular cancer was found to be susceptible to treatment with cisplatin and there were other successes with ovarian, head and neck cancers.

Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden Hospital in London achieved a significant step when they found a compound similar to cisplatin in terms of activity, but much less toxic. This drug, carboplatin, was first approved in 1986. Recent research has sought to identify new platinum compounds which will treat tumours which do not respond to or which become resistant to cisplatin and carboplatin. The first of these drugs to reach commercialization is oxaliplatin, which is being marketed under the trade name Eloxatin.

Upcoming platinum anti-cancer drugs include satraplatin, which is being developed for treatment of prostate cancer. It is claimed that the use of satraplatin results in a higher survival rate than with existing chemotherapy treatments. Satraplatin will also be the first platinum anti-cancer drug that can be administered orally instead of intravenously, allowing patients to be treated at home. The drug is currently undergoing clinical trials.

One can only wonder if there’s a side of the “slanted line” of antimicrobial activity that gets close to “anti-mammalian cell activity”, or if it is just being down in the ‘heavy’ end of things ( with Platinum, Lead, and Mercury all being on one horizontal line and near each other). That would imply the potential for anti-cancer drugs from the metals with antimicrobial properties, but also high molecular weights.

Gold is also used for arthritis, probably also due to binding to some of the needed molecules of life, but in this case some of the ones for immune responses. It also has anti-microbial uses.

Gold salts describe ionic chemical compounds of gold. The term, which is a misnomer, has evolved into a synonym for the gold compounds used in medicine. The application of gold compounds to medicine is called “chrysotherapy” and “aurotherapy.” The first reports of research in this area appeared in 1935, primarily to reduce inflammation and to slow disease progression in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Most chemical compounds of gold, including some of the drugs discussed below, are not in fact salts. Gold compounds find wide use in electroplating, and as reagents in organic chemistry.
Investigation of medical applications of gold salts began at the end of the 19th century, when gold cyanide demonstrated effectiveness against Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Hmmmm… Another one effective on TB. Wonder if you can combine two different TB meds for greater effectiveness? Perhaps two metals or one metal and an organic antibacterial…

Another thought that comes to mind is that given all the various metals and salts that “cure things”, soaking in a mineral bath or a mud bath suddenly has more reason to think it might actually be able to do something.

OK, I’m not thrilled at the idea of taking any drug with ‘cyanide’ in the name; but for TB, maybe…

Particularly intriguing is the reference to LUPUS below. It’s a particularly hard to treat disease, so anything that helps is of interest.

Gold compounds, which accumulate slowly in the body and, over time, reduce inflammation, especially related to rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriatic arthritis, membranous nephritis, lupus erythematosus and, infrequently, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA).

At present, gold salts are infrequently used to treat children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (previously termed Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis), as methotrexate is the convention. Gold salts are sometimes used for children with progressive polyarthritis who are unresponsive to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, methotrexate, and other medications. This treatment is expensive requiring frequent visits to the doctor and numerous lab tests.

Then there is this bit about ‘crossover’ between uses. Which leads me to wonder if silver might also work against arthritis and other inflammatory issues, or if the activity in humans is so low that it can be in high doses and ‘do nothing’. Gold is just below Silver in the periodic chart, so perhaps you need the added ‘heavy’ to have any mammalian metabolic effect.

Potential future uses

Research continued to examine the potential of gold salts as anti-cancer agents. This research stemmed from the discovery that auranofin was toxic towards leukemia cells. It is also noted that a wide variety of the salts currently being researched are effective against cisplatin resistant cancer cells, highlighting their different but at present unknown modes of operation.

Gold salts combined with Chloroquine, an anti-malarial, show potential at treating resistant strains of malaria.

It has been suggested in Japan that gold salts used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis particularly gold thioglucose, may also be used for the treatment of bronchial asthma.

Nice to know that some gold can help along the anti-malarials and fill in for platinum as a cancer drug. There was also an oblique reference to using gold in neurological problems and that some gold was found in normal folks; but this is already too long and I’m not going to chase down the rat hole of “Is gold a necessary trace nutrient” just now ;-)


Auranofin is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. It improves arthritis symptoms including painful or tender and swollen joints and morning stiffness.


HIV infection

Auranofin is under investigation as means of reducing the viral reservoir of HIV that lies latent in the body’s T-cells despite treatment with antiretroviral therapy.


Auranofin has been identified in a high-throughput drug screen as 10 times more potent than metronidazole on Entamoeba histolytica, the protozoan agent of human amebiasis. Assays of thioredoxin reductase and transcriptional profiling suggest that the effect of auranofin on the enzyme enhances the sensitivity of the trophozoites to reactive oxygen-mediated killing in mouse and hamster models; the results are markedly reductions of the number of parasites, the inflammatory reaction to the infestation and the damage to the liver.

A couple of years ago a kid got some amoeba up his nose and into his brain. He died as it consumed his brain and the doctors said there was nothing they can do. One can only suggest keeping in mind the “experimental” use of gold salts “off label”… It also looks like HIV patients might want to get a bit of arthritis medication ;-)

Misc. & Oddballs

How about semiconductors?


Regular disinfection of surfaces is required in order to reduce the number of microorganisms, unable to transmit infections and maintaining the surfaces sterilized. For this purpose, antimicrobial thin film coatings on the various surfaces such as glass and ceramic surfaces, capable of killing harmful microorganisms are being investigated.

Generally a semiconducting material which can be activated by UV light tends to exhibit a strong antimicrobial activity. With holes (h+) and hydroxyl radicals (OH*) generated in the valence band, electrons and the superoxide ions (O2-) generated in the conduction band, illuminated semiconductor photocatalysts can inactivate microorganisms by participating in a series of oxidation reactions leading to carbon dioxide.

The aim of this current study was developing semiconductor coatings, increasing the photocatalytic activity of these coatings by metal doping, particularly palladium doping, and investigating the antimicrobial properties of these coatings.

In this study, glass surfaces were coated with titanium dioxide (TiO2), tin dioxide (SnO2) and palladium doped TiO2 and SnO2 sol-gels. After achieving thin, dense and strong coatings, antimicrobial properties of the coatings were investigated by applying the indicator microorganisms directly onto the coated glasses.

Different cell wall structure of microorganisms can strongly affect the photocatalytic efficiency of the coatings. Hence Escherichia coli as a Gr (-) bacteria, Staphylococcus aereus as Gr (+) bacteria, Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a yeast and Aspergilus niger spores were used in the experiments.

Photocatalytic efficiency of TiO2 was better than SnO2 coatings. Palladium doping increased the antimicrobial activity of both coatings. The reduction efficiencies were found to decrease in the following order of E. coli [Gr (-)] > S. aereus [Gr (+)] > S.cerevisiae (yeast) > A. niger spores. The complexity and the density of the cell walls increased in the same order. As a result of this study, with the coating that shows the best photocatalytic activity, 98% of Escherichia coli, 87% of Staphylococcus aereus, 43% Saccharomyces cerevisiae were killed after 2 hours illumination.

In Conclusion

So just where does all this leave me?

Aside from the general realization that a lot of metals can act as drugs and antimicrobials and anticancer agents; it leaves a general feeling that there is a lot of opportunity for various “waters” and “muds” to have some therapeutic benefit. Beyond that, it looks like there are many opportunities to make new drugs, and perhaps whole new classes of drugs out of the metals. I ran into one link that looked at compounds using “metal complexes” (an array of the metal ions held in a complex organic cage / molecule) of many of these same metals and found activity of various sorts.

It is also clear that while Silver is a pretty good antimicrobial, it has plenty of competition if the price is too high. Overall, the field has that feeling of a ‘young field’ where the first products to be known, look like the Darling, and then all these other things come out of the woodwork over time. Remember the “must have” untouchably advanced phone of not that long ago, the Motorola Startac? Yeah… that ancient dinosaur that nobody uses anymore …

I’m also left with a really nice justification for my fondness of brass and bronze furnishings and fittings ;-)

Then there is just the realization that in an emergency or a very primitive situation, that there are alternatives to the advanced western drug company products. It can even be as simple as sucking on a copper coin or making a bit of silver salts out of some jewelry. Or using that zinc oxide sun block on a fresh wound, when several hot days walk from treatment. The story of that one field doctor, who used “lunar caustic” in a fresh wound from a mad dog to prevent getting rabies, is a spectacular example of “off label” field expedient thinking. (Wonder where I can get a “lunar caustic” pencil these days? :-) All in all I’ve gained a new respect for using simple metals and their compounds for everything from warts to cancer.

Subscribe to feed

About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Science Bits and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to Brass Doorknobs, Flu, and MRSA

  1. EM – in my last house I replaced all the doorhandles with Brass to get that anti-microbial effect, but haven’t got round to doing it in this one. It’s quite expensive, and square tuits are much easier to find. It seems like things such as doctor’s stethoscopes ought to be made in Brass again – the funny thing about this is that the Stainless Steel fittings were touted as “more hygienic” than the old Brass ones.

    Maybe also this is the reason for a Silver spoon to be a traditional christening gift, since a baby fed with such a spoon would have a better chance of surviving to adulthood.

  2. Hugo M says:

    Lunar caustic sticks aren’t listed anymore, presumably for a reason. From my own experience, it was very easy to cause a severe skin ulcer even when applied by a physician. However, it should be easy to fill a solution of AgNO3 into a felt tip pen or even crystallize silver nitrate from a saturated solution: tie a seed crystal to the end of a thin thread and store the container at a calm and cool place.

  3. Gary Turner says:

    I can’t remember the last time I used right click for anything other than to open a link in a new tab. Simply select by dragging the mouse with the left button down, then hit ctl-c. For example:

    The New Silver Solution
    The First Line Of Defense Against Infectious Disease!

    First Line Of Disease Defense
    $ Millions In Research Invested
    Proven Safe In Numerous Tests
    Broad Spectrum Killing Ability
    New Test Work Including Bird Flu
    New Patent Issued and additional Patents Pending



  4. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M. :copper, in very small quantities, has the power to control a wide range of molds, fungi, algae and harmful microbes.
    This is because copper readily oxidizes to Cu2O and CuO taking the oxygen needed for molds and fungi to breathe.
    But…Have you tried some of these cures?

  5. adolfogiurfa says:

    A friend of mine used to manufacture silver nitrate “sticks” made out from melting silver nitrate plus potassium nitrate 50:50. These were to be applied directly on the spot.

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    @Gary Turner:

    ctl-c eh? (Hey, I’m a Linux / Unix geek and long term Mac user so ‘know the tricks’ there – Windoze is a “use just enough as needed” thing for me so I’ve not memorized the large list of “secret handshakes” it uses…) Nice alternative to ‘right click – choose copy’…


    Other than silver nitrate and silver chloride I’ve not used them. Well, I’ve owned a lot of brass and bronze things over the years, but not for “medicinal purposes” ;-)

    @Hugo M:

    I’ve noticed that “old, dirt cheap, and works” often gets removed from the ‘approved’ list once a “new, expensive, and works a bit better” comes along. Take coal tar extract and soaps made from them. Works on all sorts of minor skin issues. Now largely gone due to cancer paranoia. (Not many folks will use it long enough to have any real risk even if it did have an effect.) Mercurochrome due to mercury paranoia. Haven’t seen “gentian violet” in a while either though it looks like it’s still ‘approved’, but deprecated.

    I’d expect anything that is a “caustic” to require fast application and highly controlled dose…


    At least it gives an excuse to get a real silver Silver Service ;-)

    In theory a thin brass plate ought to be enough, so effective antibacterial fittings ought not to require higher prices. But markets do what they do…

  7. Graeme No.3 says:

    Both zinc and copper naphthenates were used for many years to “rot proof” canvas in the tropics.
    In fact any form of these as soaps were strongly anti-fungal. Not water soluble, so applied as a solvent solution.
    Also effective on woods, but copper stops the old oil based paints from drying.
    An old paint used in tropical Queensland for under the eaves, was nothing more than (bodied) linseed oil and zinc oxide. Bodying the oil made it dry faster, thickened it to slow down running, and generated a small amount of free fatty acid, which reacted with the zinc oxide to make a zinc soap.

  8. There may be a link with werewolves here, and other things that needs a silver bullet to kill them. The prophylactic properties of Silver seem to have been known for a lot longer than we’ve known about bacteria and other microbes. Maybe people saw the effects of Silver, and assigned the effect to working against a curse rather than things they couldn’t see.

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    @Graeme No.3 :

    Golly! I remember that canvas treatment (buried somewhere in my brain that has not seen the light of day for 40 years…) Nice touch on the paint method…


    You can see a curse? Wow! ;-)

  10. Tim Clark says:

    [Bordeaux mixture (also called Bordo Mix) is a mixture of copper(II) sulfate (CuSO4) and slaked lime used as a fungicide in vineyards.]

    Probably helped in disease control back when it was used more. Some HAD to get in the wine. I have got the perfect disinfectant. Wine made from grapes treated with bordeuax mixture served from a silver chalice.

  11. EM – yes, I could have worded that better. I suppose you had to read it twice – sorry.

    It seems the first trials to stop rotting of the grapes were just spraying with Copper Sulphate, but it tended to wash off too easily. Mixing it with slaked lime and salt (Sodium Chloride) was found to make it stick on for longer. Some say the very blue grapes also stopped people eating them, but I don’t think this is true – people who eat snails will eat anything. Copper Sulphate is also sold as “Blue Crystal” for treating wood against rotting. One friend of mine, who actually did do the course on oenology, told me that a total of 20 micrograms of Copper was enough to protect protect a single vine against the various rots, so for a long time far too much has been sprayed on the vineyards of France and elsewhere.

  12. Tim Clark says:

    “Bordeaux mixture began being used by the United Fruit Company throughout Latin America around 1922. The mixture was nicknamed perico, or “parakeet”, because it would turn workers completely blue. Many workers would get sick or die of poisoning due to the chemical.”

  13. Tim Clark says:

    Copper sulfate is also very effective in killing algae and pond scum.

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    @Simon: It wasn’t your problem, it’s the way an Aspe brain reads things… exactly as written… I actually “got it” on the first read, but with an echo of “We ‘fixed it up’ from this, the original read…” I do a lot of that ‘fix it up’…

    But I just could not pass up the built in humor of the ambiguous second meaning ;-)

    @Tim Clark:

    While seated at a brass sheathed table… wearing a bronze helmet… polishing your bronze sword… fondling the silver and copper coins raided last week… Ah, for the good old days of being a European Barbarian Raider ;-)

    (I wonder if the Latin American usage was done particularly poorly, or if they just way over used it, or if the individual workers were being asked to so something dumb like apply it by hand…)

  15. tckev says:

    Those not so happy days, when we had all manner of metal based remedies of minor ailments. When hospitals were very far away and people rarely returned from them, some of these home remedies came to hand.

    Washing soda, sodium carbonate (aka soda ash), Na2CO3 is a sodium salt of carbonic acid. It most commonly occurs as a crystalline heptahydrate, kept the water soft and the soap more effective. Dilute solution was used for indigestion and heart-burn.

    Antacid were usually just chalk (Calcium Carbonate). More powerful antacid was Calcium Hydroxide.

    Soothing sunburn with Calamine Lotion (Zinc Carbonate)

    Epsom salts (Magnesium sulfate) in the bath.

    Styptic pencil, or alum stick (hydrated potassium aluminum sulfate) is used as a blood coagulant and astringent for razor cuts. Alum solution left to dry on the fingers to deter habitual nail biting.

    Mercurochrome, Merbromine, Sodium mercurescein, Asceptichrome, Supercrome, Brocasept and Cinfacromin was the types of topical antiseptic used for minor cuts and scrapes. Along with Golden Eye ointment for treatment of styes on the eyelid. They all contained mercury.

    Silver eye ointment also for minor eye infections, styes, etc., obviously contained silver (as nitrate)

    Potassium permanganate has broad antimicrobial properties, but its intense purple color in solution, which stains tissues and clothing brown causing embarrassment.

    Gentian Violet which has antibacterial, antifungal, and anthelmintic properties and was formerly important as a topical antiseptic but left a livid color.

    Bluestone (Copper sulfate)
    Copper sulfate solution was drunk for roundworm and other parasitic infections!
    Copper sulfate solution was painted on to ringworm infection.
    A mouth wash of copper sulfate was used for bad breath and halitosis.

    Milk of magnesia for the upset stomach, morphine and kaolin (hydrated aluminum silicate and other clay based mineral mixtures) if you had the runs.

    Zinc oxide on the babies tender regions before applying the clean nappy.

    Potassium Bromide would keep you calm and in control of your basic urges.

    All kinds of Iron salts were put into tonics.

    Tincture of Iodine for all manner of antiseptic and antibacterial action on major and minor wounds.

    The only easily available painkiller was aspirin and/or a stiff drink.

    Gripe water for teething babies was at least 3.6% (by volume) alcohol!

    Some old pharmaceuticals are listed here.

  16. Power Grab says:

    Awesome article. i haven’t studied the entire page yet, but I will be back.
    Mark Purdey (from the UK, and of BSE fame) told me that colloidal silver should not be placed up the nostrils because it’s so close to the brain. Imbalances of metals is one of the things that leads to BSE (so-called “Mad Cow Disease”).

  17. E.M.Smith says:

    @Power Grab:

    Glad you liked the page! It all started from a tiny sore (about 2 mm ) that would not go away…

    The causal agent of BSE has been identified. It is an “infective protein”. ( It causes the normal form to ‘refold’ into a form causing sickness, that also causes more of the normal to refold, etc. etc.) Nothing to do with metal levels. This has been extensively proven via a variety of means ( I sat in on a presentation about it at a drug company in Palo Alto a few years back that was basically an all day seminar on it by the folks who had done some of the work…) Long series of experiments demonstrated this. (Long list of various parts of various animals fed to others with infection, or not, following). It’s a fascinating disease; but not related to nutritional status.

    It’s been identified down to the genes that make the variations on the protein (for some folks it’s hereditary due to a genetic difference that makes a spontaneous refolding more probable). Each species has a slightly different amino acid sequence, so slightly different ‘match’. This means that each species can only ‘infect’ selected other species where the protein fold is ‘close enough’. For this reason “scrapie” in sheep can infect cows ( as BSE) but not humans. However, the cow form can infect people. So it was feeding sheep to cows (as protein meal) from scrapie sheep that started the chain that ended in people. A whole map of ‘which species can infect what’ was being worked out then. It is probable that pigs can not infect people, so the high rate of infected cow / sheep protein fed to pigs didn’t ‘carry on’ to people. But once you know the infectivity map, you can move the disease from any one species to any other via intermediate species. These experiments have been done (and were part of the presentation).

    Kuru is a related disease that was eliminated when the natives were convinced to NOT eat the brains of deceased relatives to “honor” them… Same protein. Same problem.

    There are a couple of ‘edge cases’ where slight differences in the folding can cause somewhat different severity / symptoms. Thus the feeding of ‘ground up cows’ with Sheep derived folding changes to other cows, is thought to have resulted in an even more damaging refolding and the worst form of BSE. Similarly, in humans the genetic predisposition form is Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease. When the same protein defect of folding is driven by cow derived prions, you get Varient CJD, that has slightly different severity and process.

    It’s all terribly interesting, but quite obscure and complex.

    The very dark blue guy in the picture up above got that way by putting a LOT of silver up his nose as nose drops. All it did (bad) was make him very very blue…

    I think I’ll go with the experiments and existence proofs rather than the ideas of Mark Purdey, no matter how esteemed.


    Pretty good list of “memory lane” ;-)

    As a kid, I liked to make interesting patterns by painting part of the “boo boo” with Mercurochrome and part with Gentian Violet (and / or occasionally Iodine). Loved the smells too ;-)

    I suspect that if I’d had the old ‘regulars’ this minor lesion would have been done-in long ago…

  18. Verity Jones says:

    I thought of the alien ‘greys’ thing immediately too – before seeing your paragraph.

    Copper plate on ships to prevent algal (and other) fouling – gave rise to the term ‘copper-bottomed investment’.

    How does copper kill pathogens?
    Copper is an essential nutrient for bacteria, but in high doses, it harms bacterial cells. The exact mechanism by which copper kills bacteria is still being researched, however, several theories exist and are being studied. They include:
    Cause leakage of potassium or glutamate through the outer membrane of bacteria
    Disturb osmotic balance
    Bind to proteins that do not require copper
    Cause oxidative stress by generating hydrogen peroxide

  19. boballab says:

    Yeah Plastic is very good at letting bacteria live, that is also why you should use wood cutting boards and not plastic ones. The wood actually helps keep bacteria from contaminating your food:

    Our research was first intended to develop means of disinfecting wooden cutting surfaces at home, so that they would be almost as safe as plastics. Our safety concern was that bacteria such as Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella, which might contaminate a work surface when raw meat was being prepared, ought not remain on the surface to contaminate other foods that might be eaten without further cooking. We soon found that disease bacteria such as these were not recoverable from wooden surfaces in a short time after they were applied, unless very large numbers were used. New plastic surfaces allowed the bacteria to persist, but were easily cleaned and disinfected. However, wooden boards that had been used and had many knife cuts acted almost the same as new wood, whereas plastic surfaces that were knife-scarred were impossible to clean and disinfect manually, especially when food residues such as chicken fat were present. Scanning electron micrographs revealed highly significant damage to plastic surfaces from knife cuts.

  20. Boballab – Beech is supposed to have the best antibacterial properties. Butcher blocks should be made from end-grain Beech, which gradually wears to a new surface (thus presumably a fresh supply of antibacterial stuff) in use. It looks nicer than plastic, too.

  21. Jason Calley says:

    I have wondered whether the blue skin depiction of various important Hindu personages is an ancient memory of a time when the ruling caste ingested so much silver (ever seen the Indian desserts covered with silver foil?) that they all turned blue.

    Speaking of blue…and copper… a good source of copper sulfate is your local hardware store. Most carry root killer for clogged sewer lines; many such products are near pure copper sulphate. Check the labels. It does indeed make a good fungicide. In fact, if you have locations that have mildew (maybe that old book shelf in the basement) take an old rag, wet it with copper sulphate solution, wring it to just damp and wipe your shelves and books covers. Mix a bit with your wall paint if you like; a little will not noticeably change the color. By the way, I tried copper sulphate solution to treat some athletes foot. It worked temporarily, but not long term.

    Hmmm… as for those stainless steel doorknobs, would it be practical to use a copper sulphate solution to copper plate them. Clean them with acetone or strong soap, immerse, hook up a small battery. It would be cheaper than buying new hardware. Actually, if you run the plating solution long enough, I think you might get some pretty good sulphuric acid as well. Might be useful.

  22. Pascvaks says:

    Fabulous Piece EM! You know, while reading, a nagging question kept coming to mind, where did the old saying: “He/She has a heart of gold!” come from? I have a feeling we have thrown out many a baby with the bath water in our assent to the present heights in the Age of Plastics and Stainless Steel, and that a good Farm/Ranch Vet would be a pretty good Doc to know in a real pinch (well mayby we’d only need a book on Hogs;-)

  23. Tim Clark says:

    (I wonder if the Latin American usage was done particularly poorly, or if they just way over used it, or if the individual workers were being asked to so something dumb like apply it by hand…)

    I’m a cynical skeptic. It probably wasn’t even the copper sulfate, more likely a pesticide. The link didn’t have any data.

  24. Jason – to use Copper Sulphate as a plating solution, you’d need to add some Sulphuric Acid to it. Use a bit of old copper pipe as your copper source. It ought to work on stainless steel, though haven’t tried it.

    Pascvaks – a vet has a good basing in standard medicine, too, and since he/she can’t ask “which bit hurts?” they are likely to be better at diagnosis. Doctors bury their failures – do vets eat them?

    Tim – spraying the Bouillie Bordelais (literally Bordeaux soup) does come back at you a bit if the wind is up, and you do end up a bit blue, but it washes off. It’s probably the rather dusty slaked lime that’s the most damaging part of it. Using a face-mask is probably the only safety requirement unless you’re doing it all the time.

  25. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M. & Simon: Watch the following. I could tell you, also, how to obtain copper nano particles (avg. size: 5-10 nanometers).
    [video src="" /]

  26. Judy F. says:


    I think I have learned more chemistry from reading your blog than ever sitting through a chemistry class.

    Several things came to mind when I read this piece of yours. I immediately thought of how “off” my water tastes in the 5 year old house I live in now. You know, the one with the new plastic water lines because “they don’t do copper pipes anymore, it just costs too much.” I can go into my basement and see that the once clear lines are getting a little cloudy, and I don’t know if it is calcium depositing in the lines or if it is something “growing” in them. Blech, I don’t know if I want to know.

    I also thought of something my Mom said one time. She was a nurse, who studied to be an army nurse in WWII, fortunately, the war ended before she could go into the service. She said that even though things had to be kept sanitary and cleaned regularly, the nurses didn’t worry about printed material ( books, magazines, newspapers etc) being passed between patients. That puzzled me until she said that most germs didn’t live long on pages with the lead based inks. Now ink is mostly soybean, because it is a “greener” option.

    In college I had a horse who kicked through a three wire fence and took most of the hide off his gaskins and hocks ( the front of the upper “thigh” and knee on the back legs). It was early morning when I found him and I had to get to class, so I slathered on the only thing I had available, and that was gentian violet. I was more worried about getting him untangled from the fence and then getting to class ( finals week, if I remember correctly) than thinking about the side effects of using my hands to apply the gentian violet. I lived with purple hands and forearms for about a week. I survived the comments from the people who saw me and my horse survived the injury, but I still cringe when I think of how purple I was.

    My small town, old time doctor has used both silver nitrate and gentian violet on various and sundry conditions for myself and the kids, within the last few years. It cured what ailed us.

  27. Adolfo – the video is not exactly self-explanatory as to what it’s about. I think the watch-glass contains some form of colloidal Copper, but no idea of what’s in the beaker. Getting Nickel nanoparticles easily could be very useful, though.

    Judy – possibly it’s the wood-pulp in the paper that is the thing that’s antibacterial, not the printing ink. Maybe the same thing wouldn’t apply to the much older vellum pages or leather-bound books, though – maybe this advance really was useful.
    I’d suggest using a water filter-jug for drinking water – it does remove things like Aluminium salts (used for softening the water) and Chlorine and makes it taste nicer. In some areas, the water companies call the water “aggressive” and it can dissolve Copper pipes in less than a decade. I haven’t yet found out what is in the water to do this, but it would probably lead to a high concentration of Copper in the drinking-water in a house with Copper piping.
    Plastic pipes generally have Brass fittings at the ends, so there is still some Copper in your system. The white stuff is probably just limescale. Putting one of those magnet-clamps on the pipes does seem to have some effect on this, and stops some of the precipitation at least. It might help, but might not – depends on the particular water where you are, I think.

  28. adolfogiurfa says:

    @JudyF: That puzzled me until she said that most germs didn’t live long on pages with the lead based inks. Now ink is mostly soybean, because it is a “greener” option.
    Last week I bought a pack of toilet paper…of the most known brand in the world; well I FOUND WORMS in it; obviously it was obtained through that “neutral process” which uses synthetic polymers instead of the good old days´aluminum sulphate plus rosin, then it is like CANDY FOR BUGS. The best papers, made in the 19th century, were made using natural ammonium aluminum sulphate (tschernigite) and rosin, while utilizing cellulose from recycled cotton cloths.
    Aluminum Sulphate and rosin form an insoluble chelate.

  29. Hugo M says:

    EM(28 August 2012 at 7:19 pm) – I do share your opinion. The highly effective Gentiana Violet you mentioned above is gone too, chez nous, for no other reason than that it does stain the skin by means of its active principle and thusly marks (discriminates!) dermatological patients and their laundry. However, it still is on the WHO list of essential medicines.

  30. adolfogiurfa says:

    @Simon Derricutt: It contains a dispersion (mixture) of copper hydroxide with a liquid reactant.

  31. Tom Harley says:

    Three months with an infected ankle, drips full of antibiotics, followed by a skin graft, 6 weeks in hospital, still left my foot infected. The final straw saw the doctor use silver gauze and almost immediately wiped out the last of a Pseudomonas infection. Great article, thanks EM.

  32. Pingback: the final cure … | pindanpost

  33. larrygeiger says:

    My wife and I have discovered that Neosporin is not very effective for stubborn infections. We recently received some Mupricin and the stubborn/recurring ones are now all gone.

  34. E.M.Smith says:

    @Verity Jones:

    Nice to hear from you again. I’ve been a bit busy and not kept up… Think I need to do better ;-)

    Nice to know I’m not the only one who thinks of ‘odd bits’ like silvered aliens ;-)


    Ah, fond memories of the Old Butcher Shop near my home town. LARGE hardwood block about 3 feet on a side and about 2 feet thick of end grain hardwood sections. Butcher would chop and cut everything on it (it had gradually over the years developed a slight ‘dome’ shape). Every so often would rub it down with a handful of rock salt. End of the day, washed it and layered on about 1/4 inch of rock salt to sit over night. Never a problem.

    Now some agency or other has said wood is bad, so banned it. Never mind that the approved surface (plastic) is worse… Or that a layer of salt can cure meat hanging at room temperature…


    Beech, eh? As in beech wood aging? ;-) Personally, I like the look of oak, and it’s got good tannins in it too.

    Most large animal vets can get all the prime cuts they want for free. Make one ‘off hours emergency call’ to a farmer and you get free steaks for a very long time come meat locker time… At least, that’s how it was in my home town. Don’t know what small animal vets do ;-)

    @Jason Calley:

    What an idea! Didn’t realize that classical Indian food included silver foil. Yup, that would cause it… and it would explain the strange skin tones in the depictions (and the description of various religious folks).

    IIRC, putting an iron rod in a copper sulfate solution plates out copper without electricity. Don’t know if stainless steel does the same, but would likely require some kind of surface activation (ie oxide removal).


    There’s a bunch of gold based medicines. And yes, a Vet is a good person to know. Especially one who paid attention during the ‘exotics’ class and knows how to treat primates… IMHO Vets need to know more than M.D.s as they have a much broader set of species to deal with.

    @Tim Clark:

    That’s a problem with many Latin American reports of things. Even if you read the label you don’t always know what was in the can.


    I’ll take a look (and I’ll holler if I need nano-copper, but for now I think I’m OK).

    @Judy F.:

    BLUSH! Yes, I do like “applied chemistry” don’t I ;-)

    Oh God, I could see me doing the same thing: “THIS needs doing NOW, just do it.” looks at hands later… Oh, Dear! But I’d not have done anything different…

    Most plastics don’t feed growing things well, but if you have light on clear plastic you can get “stuff” happy with the wet sunny place to live. If it bugs you ( ;-) you can get a silver or UV water purifier for the drinking water. ( Or just put in a section of copper…)


    Putting a water softener in the line also removes a lot of crap, but you get more sodium in the diet…

    @Hugo M:

    I think I’ll do a web search and see if anyone still sells it…

    @Tom Harley:

    Interesting testimonial… sorry you had to endure it though…


    Never heard of Mupricin… I’ll look it up.

  35. EM and Jason – if you want to test it out. Edible gold leaf is hammered between plastic sheets rather than rawhide, so as to not annoy vegetarians etc..

  36. jim2 says:

    EM – borax is also an antifungal. So how about antifungal cream, neosporin, borax, and silver ointment?

  37. E.M.Smith says:


    Sounds like an interesting idea. Maybe I’ll whomp up a batch and see what it does… Equal parts neosporin and silver, with added borax…


    Gold leaf is interesting stuff, but pointless to eat. Gold salts would do more and gold leaf is prettier for longer used on books and decorations… but my god that stuff can be hammered thin…

  38. Simon Derricutt says:

    EM – on that page was also edible Silver leaf and various other edible Silver such as sprinkles. Still, I’m sure there were also medical uses of metallic Gold, IIRC it was also specified for arthritis. It may have been misguided, though.

    I import a can of Bag Balm from the States now and again, to treat minor wounds. It used to have Mercury salts in a long time back, but these were banned. The ointment works well, though. Maybe adding some Silver dust would make it even more effective?

  39. Almost on-topic, and may be useful since about 1 in 3 people over 50 have problems with haemorrhoids. It seems that Witch Hazel has been used for a long time in commercial preparations, but if you wet the toilet-paper with Distilled Witch Hazel it not only makes a better job of cleaning but also reduces the problem. It’s one of the problems of travelling for me, and using Witch Hazel reduces it to a minor inconvenience unless I’ve overdosed on peanuts.

  40. Jason Calley says:

    @ E.M. “IMHO Vets need to know more than M.D.s as they have a much broader set of species to deal with.”

    There may be some truth to that. Vets are not able to ask their patients questions about what, where and when the malady started; vets must be smart! On other hand, MDs can ask all sorts of questions — but most of them don’t listen to the answers anyway!


  41. Jason Calley says:

    @ Simon Derricutt
    Glad to hear about the plastic sheets and foil production. Just a few minutes before I saw your post, I read a site describing the traditional Indian production. Yuk!

Comments are closed.