The first post on use of silver preparations generated so many questions and comments that I decided a second post was in order.
The important questions are:
1. Are silver preparations effective if applied as wound dressings?
2. Are they effective and safe taken internally?
3. At TEOTWAWKI can I use Granny’s silver spoon to cure my own pneumonia?
1. In Part I I discussed the use of silver sulfadiazine for burn wounds and other acute wounds. It is safe and effective for short term use for the prevention of bacterial wound infection. Silver-impregnated or silver-treated dressings are also effective, but probably no more so than silver sulfadiazine cream. Your doctor may be willing to supply you with the cream, but is unlikely to be familiar with the dressings, which are costlier as well.
2. The FDA has concluded that the risk of taking oral silver preparations outweighs any potential benefits. Argyria has been documented with intake of a home-prepared colloidal silver preparation (see pictures below). Taking large doses of colloidal silver may also damage the bone marrow, cause seizures, or lead to coma. Many colloidal silver preparations are poorly standardized and may contain contaminants including bacteria and dissolved silver. (And if bacteria grow in a silver preparation, how effective would that preparation be to fight infection?)
3. NO (see #2), but apparently it is possible to make your own colloidal silver preparation at home. However, determining the concentration and purity would be a great challenge. If no other option were available, perhaps a commercial or home-prepared suspension for topical use might be reasonable. Just because a colloidal metal can kill bacteria does not make it safe to ingest – lead kills bacteria, too – along with people.
What would I do myself? At least for now my answer remains the same: I’d stock up on silver sulfadiazine. A 50-gm tube costs $4 at Wal-Mart (or 3 tubes for $10). Although it comes in a larger jar as well, smaller unopened tubes would store better. This cream is available only by prescription, but your doctor may be willing to prescribe it for you. Another alternative is the OTC bacitracin cream/ointment, the same medication doctors and hospitals use, which probably works equally well externally for prevention of wound infection and treatment of superficial infections. See also How to get your doctor to help you stockpile medicine.
The article below comes from the Department of Dermatology, University of California Davis. It discusses the safety and effectiveness in greater detail, as well as dosing that is known to cause argyria (and death).
For the interested reader, here are the articles they reference:
1. Hill WR, Pillsbury DM. Argyria, The Pharmacology of Silver. 1st edn. The Williams and Wilkins Co. 1939.
2. Kaye ET. Topical antibacterial agents. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2000 Jun;14(2):321-39. Review. PubMed
5. Fung MC, Bowen DL. Silver products for medical indications: risk-benefit assessment. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 1996;34(1):119-26. Review. PubMed
10. Furst A, Schlauder MC. Inactivity of two noble metals as carcinogens. J Environ Pathol Toxicol. 1978 Sep-Oct;1(1):51-7. PubMed
12. Ohbo Y, Fukuzako H, Takeuchi K, Takigawa M. Argyria and convulsive seizures caused by ingestion of silver in a patient with schizophrenia. Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 1996 Apr;50(2):89-90. PubMed
13. Moss AP, Sugar A, Hargett NA, Atkin A, Wolkstein M, Rosenman KD. The ocular manifestations and functional effects of occupational argyrosis. Arch Ophthalmol. 1979 May;97(5):906-8. PubMed
14. Schlotzer-Schrehardt U, Holbach LM, Hofmann-Rummelt C, Naumann GO. Multifocal corneal argyrosis after an explosion injury. Cornea. 2001 Jul;20(5):553-7. PubMed
15. Pariser RJ. Generalized argyria. Clinicopathologic features and histochemical studies. Arch Dermatol. 1978 Mar;114(3):373-7. PubMed
16. Over-the-counter drug products containing colloidal silver ingredients or silver salts. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Public Health Service (PHS), Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Final rule. Fed Regist. 1999 Aug 17;64(158):44653-8. PubMed