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Heavy metals

Some of the first chemical disinfectants and antiseptics to be used were heavy metals . Heavy metals kill microbes by binding to proteins, thus inhibiting enzymatic activity ( [link] ). Heavy metals are oligodynamic, meaning that very small concentrations show significant antimicrobial activity. Ions of heavy metals bind to sulfur-containing amino acids strongly and bioaccumulate within cells, allowing these metals to reach high localized concentrations. This causes proteins to denature.

Heavy metals are not selectively toxic to microbial cells. They may bioaccumulate in human or animal cells, as well, and excessive concentrations can have toxic effects on humans. If too much silver accumulates in the body, for example, it can result in a condition called argyria , in which the skin turns irreversibly blue-gray. One way to reduce the potential toxicity of heavy metals is by carefully controlling the duration of exposure and concentration of the heavy metal.

a) photo of a copper door handle. B) Picture of silver forks. C) Picture of an incubator d) picture of Listerine mouthwash. E) Picture of a person with gray skin.
Heavy metals denature proteins, impairing cell function and, thus, giving them strong antimicrobial properties. (a) Copper in fixtures like this door handle kills microbes that otherwise might accumulate on frequently touched surfaces. (b) Eating utensils contain small amounts of silver to inhibit microbial growth. (c) Copper commonly lines incubators to minimize contamination of cell cultures stored inside. (d) Antiseptic mouthwashes commonly contain zinc chloride. (e) This patient is suffering from argyria, an irreversible condition caused by bioaccumulation of silver in the body. (credit b: modification of work by “Shoshanah”/Flickr; credit e: modification of work by Herbert L. Fred and Hendrik A. van Dijk)

Mercury

Mercury is an example of a heavy metal that has been used for many years to control microbial growth. It was used for many centuries to treat syphilis. Mercury compounds like mercuric chloride are mainly bacteriostatic and have a very broad spectrum of activity. Various forms of mercury bind to sulfur-containing amino acids within proteins, inhibiting their functions.

In recent decades, the use of such compounds has diminished because of mercury’s toxicity. It is toxic to the central nervous, digestive, and renal systems at high concentrations, and has negative environmental effects, including bioaccumulation in fish. Topical antiseptics such as mercurochrome , which contains mercury in low concentrations, and merthiolate , a tincture (a solution of mercury dissolved in alcohol) were once commonly used. However, because of concerns about using mercury compounds, these antiseptics are no longer sold in the United States.

Silver

Silver has long been used as an antiseptic. In ancient times, drinking water was stored in silver jugs. N. Silvestry-Rodriguez et al. “Silver as a Disinfectant.” In Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology , pp. 23-45. Edited by GW Ware and DM Whitacre. New York: Springer, 2007. Silvadene cream is commonly used to treat topical wounds and is particularly helpful in preventing infection in burn wounds. Silver nitrate drops were once routinely applied to the eyes of newborns to protect against ophthalmia neonatorum , eye infections that can occur due to exposure to pathogens in the birth canal, but antibiotic creams are more now commonly used. Silver is often combined with antibiotics, making the antibiotics thousands of times more effective. B. Owens. “Silver Makes Antibiotics Thousands of Times More Effective.” Nature June 19 2013. http://www.nature.com/news/silver-makes-antibiotics-thousands-of-times-more-effective-1.13232 Silver is also commonly incorporated into catheters and bandages, rendering them antimicrobial; however, there is evidence that heavy metals may also enhance selection for antibiotic resistance. C. Seiler, TU Berendonk. “Heavy Metal Driven Co-Selection of Antibiotic Resistance in Soil and Water Bodies Impacted by Agriculture and Aquaculture.” Frontiers in Microbiology 3 (2012):399.

Questions & Answers

describe the process of platelet formation
Joy Reply
what is parasitic helminths
Sadiya Reply
list three categories of symbiotic relationships.
mary Reply
what's the difference between microbial intoxication and infectious diseases
dranimva Reply
microbial intoxication results when a person ingests a toxin or a poisonous substance that has been produced by a microbe while infectious disease results when a pathogen colonize the body and subsequently cause disease.
mary
weighing balance is needed in lab of microbiology for weighing?
amna Reply
It is mainly used for media preparation and product testing purpose.
Nakaweesi
thank you for your joining
nuur
what is microbiology
Shamsuddeen Reply
study of living organisms that are too small to be visible with naked eye
Marah
yes
Ahmed
microbiology is the study of microscopic organisms, either unicellular(single cell), multicellular( cell colony), or acellular (lacking cell).
munachimso
is the word Atypical or a typical bacteria. .am confused pliz help
MUWANGUZI Reply
typical bacteria
Zulpha
okay thank you what does that mean
MUWANGUZI
atypical means that it has some characters from bacteria not all characters ...but tybical means that it has all the characters that bacteria have
Reham
thank you Zulpha
MUWANGUZI
some examples please
MUWANGUZI
thank you Reham
MUWANGUZI
1) typical bacteria contain a cell wall whereas atypical bacteria usually do not contain a cell . 2) typical bacteria can be either Gram-positive or Gram-negative while atypical bacteria remain colorless with Gram staining. 3) cells of typical bacteria are large ,while cells of the atypical small
Marah
Example of atypical : Mycoplasma pneumoniae , chlamydophila pneumoniae , legionella
Marah
what is micro biology
Jauharah Reply
is the study of organisms which can't be viewed by our necked eyes
Egumat
Because it preexisting causing secondary infection after collateral damage of normal microbota
Rafaa Reply
combinations of drugs that can't be taken together and why
Grace Reply
Antagonism: the combined action is less than that of the more effective agent when used alone). All these effects may be observed in vitro (particularly in terms of bactericidal rate) and in vivo والله اعلم
Lenovo
....fermentros have 1-15litre capacity
AMAR Reply
which of the following microorganisms are classified as eukaryotic?
Semugab Reply
how do I see the list?
Melissa
what are the choices?
Melissa
dear tell us the choices
MUWANGUZI
mr semugab give us the list please
Nambi
Fungi
munachimso
what are the new discoveries of microorganisms
Ezibon Reply
bacteriology,viriology,micrology
Egumat
understanding of contributed to attempts to treat contain disease
james Reply
what is a bacteria
ROSE Reply
yes tell us
Judith
a bacteria is the largest living organisms on the planet Earth
Egumat
oh, sure. we have also one big here nearby!
Maxim
Bacteria is a large group of single-cell microorganisms. some causes infections and disease in animals and humans..
munachimso
do you mean procariots?
Maxim

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Source:  OpenStax, Microbiology. OpenStax CNX. Nov 01, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col12087/1.4
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