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Indian Express
17 October 2010
London, UK

Scientists have turned bacteria, found in yogurt, into "silver bullets" which they claim could destroy viruses and provide a cure for flu and common cold.

A team at the University of Ghent in Belgium has, in fact, discovered that it can attach tiny studs of silver onto the surface of otherwise harmless bacteria, giving them the ability to destroy viruses.

The scientists have tested the silver–impregnated bacteria against norovirus known to cause 90 per cent of the gastroenteritis cases around the world and found that they leave the virus unable to cause infections.

They now believe that the same technique could help to combat other viruses, including influenza and those causing the common cold.

Prof Willy Verstraete, who led the team, said that the bacteria could be incorporated into a nasal spray, water filters and hand washes to prevent viruses from being spread.

He was quoted by 'The Daily Telegraph' as saying, "We are using silver nanoparticles, which are extremely small but give a large amount of surface area as they can clump around the virus, increasing the inhibiting effect.

"There are concerns about using such small particles of silver in the human body and what harm it might cause to human health, so we have attached the silver nanoparticles to the surface of a bacterium. It means the silver particles remain small, but they are not free to roam around the body."

The bacteria used, Lactobacillus fermentum, is normally considered to be a "friendly" bacteria that is often found in yogurts and probiotic drinks that can help to aid digestion.

The scientists found that when grown in a solution of silver ions, the bacteria extrete tiny particles of silver, 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, which stud the outside of the cells.

Although the bacteria eventually die as a result of the silver, they remain intact and the dead cells carrying the silver particles can then be added to solutions to create nasal sprays or handwashes.

The scientists also found they could be fixed onto other surfaces such as water filters or chopping boards, which can harbour viruses.

The findings have been presented at a meeting of the Society for Applied Microbiology in London.

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