Modulation by surroundings of the antibacterial efficiency of silver in water environments

  • Adeline Marguier
  • Sophie Lakard
  • Charline Soraru
  • Maxime Delmée
  • Jean-Marc Le Meins
  • Vincent Roucoules
  • David Ruch
  • Loic Vidal
  • Lydie PlouxEmail author


Silver is a usual antibacterial agent acting in water solutions. However, quantitative data fail to anticipate the silver availability for interactions with bacterial cells and the resulting fluctuations of the inhibitory and bactericidal concentrations according to the silver amount and chemical composition of the liquid environment. We investigated whether and how three different biological media modify silver ions (Ag+) and nanoparticles (AgNPs) and alter their antibacterial performances against Escherichia coli K12. The predominant silver species highly differed in terms of nature and quantity according to the medium. Bioavailability was reduced to a few percent of the initial Ag+ amount in physiological serum (NaCl) and lysogeny broth (LB), while it was higher than 67% in minimal phosphate medium (M63G). To reach similar antibacterial performances, Ag+ concentrations were 100 times lower in M63G than in the other media. Even with a silver concentration of 10−1 M, 53% of the bacterial cells living after 3 h in LB were undamaged and revealed normal metabolic activity, while the cells were almost completely eliminated in M63G. Effects of AgNPs were also strongly but differently modulated by the medium’s components. AgNPs revealed higher antibacterial effect than Ag+ in NaCl and M63G with similar silver content, thus providing an argument to assert that AgNPs act through a combination of the release of Ag+ and intake of AgNPs. Our results finally provide guidelines about the Ag+ dose that must be released from coatings to reach efficient performances according to the surrounding medium and the framework of the study.

Graphical abstract


Silver ions Silver nanoparticles Antibacterial action Effect of the medium Escherichia coli Health effects 



The authors thank Hélène Thai and Anaïs Maccorin for their assistance in the microbiological assays. They acknowledge Julien Bardon for English revision of the manuscript.

Funding information

This study was financially supported by the Région Alsace, the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), and the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR). The authors from LIST were funded through the HABaC project (FNR CORE project).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11051_2019_4544_MOESM1_ESM.docx (253 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 252 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNRS, IS2M UMR 7361Université de Haute-AlsaceMulhouseFrance
  2. 2.Université de StrasbourgStrasbourgFrance
  3. 3.CNRS, UTINAM 6213Université de Franche-ComtéBesançonFrance
  4. 4.Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST)Esch-sur-AlzetteLuxembourg
  5. 5.INSERM, BIOMAT U1121Université de StrasbourgStrasbourgFrance

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