Mild Silver Protein: A "Silver Bullet" for Infectious Illness?

by Lane Lenard, Ph.D.

Ask almost any physician to name the gold standard in antimicrobial therapy—the treatment against which all others are measured—and it's likely he'll cite one antibiotic drug or another. It's true that for the last half of the 20th century, scores of high-tech drugs, from ampicillin to Zythromax, have worked wonders on an enormous scale, killing a wide variety of bacterial pathogens and saving countless lives in the process. But are they really the safest and most effective antimicrobial treatments available today?

The surprising answer may be, “No, they're not.” In fact, the real gold standard among antimicrobial agents turns out to be silver!

And not just any silver, but a new, revolutionary, patent-pending form of stabilized colloidal silver atoms that kills virtually any germ with which it comes into contact, has no known side effects, and does not lead to the development of resistant organisms. Those who understand the mechanisms by which conventional antibiotic drugs work will understand how crucial these three points are. Every antimicrobial agent available today inactivates or kills only a limited spectrum of bacteria, viruses, or fungi; often causes side effects or allergic reactions at therapeutic doses; and not infrequently contributes to the development of resistant species. The only exceptions to this rule are Vitamin Research's, mild silver protein-containing formulas.

Can these statements possibly be true? Can something as simple as silver be so effective and so safe? If so, why do so few physicians know about it? To answer these questions, we need to know a little something about the history of silver-based therapies.

Hi Ho, Silver
Everyone knows what silver is. It's the white, shiny metal used to make jewelry, cutlery, and coins, not to mention the bullets of a certain legendary masked man who rode a horse by that name. But besides all its beauty, ordinary metallic silver has legendary antimicrobial properties. In ancient Greece and Rome, those who could afford it often stored their perishable liquids in silver containers, because the metal helped retard the growth of microorganisms that spoil food and cause disease. Prior to the development of refrigeration, it was once common to drop a silver coin into a container of milk to retard spoilage.

There is no doubt that inorganic silver salts are highly germicidal. In more modern times, the development of silver-based therapies closely paralleled the growing awareness of the microbial etiology of many diseases. Silver's germicidal action was first documented during the late 1800s. A few years after Louis Pasteur in France and Ignaz Semmelweis in Hungary began touting the antimicrobial benefits of high temperatures and hand washing, respectively, silver therapy pioneers such as Lea, Crookes, and Credι, began developing early colloidal silver products that appeared to possess remarkable antimicrobial properties.

During the early years of the 20th century, as medical scientists searched in vain for a “magic bullet” that would destroy pathogens but leave healthy tissue unscathed, scores of scientific papers were published documenting the beneficial effects of silver-based products for treating bacteria of all types, including those that cause diseases like typhoid, gonorrhea, various gynecologic and ophthalmic infections.1,2 We know today that these pioneering researchers came agonizingly close to finding their magic bullet, and—like those carried by that “masked rider of the plains”—it was made of pure silver.

Beginning in the early 1900s, it became common practice to place a few drops of silver nitrate solution in the eyes of newborn babies at birth to prevent ophthalmic infections that could cause blindness. When wires or other metallic devices had to be implanted in the body, the preferred metal was silver due to its inherent antimicrobial properties. Bacteria simply could not grow on it.3

So confident were some turn-of-the-century physicians in the germicidal power of silver that they would perform what might be considered reckless stunts to demonstrate it. At a 1916 meeting of the American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, for example, one attendee, Dr. Baughman of Richmond, Virginia, described his encounter with the pioneer silver researcher, Credι, in Dresden, Germany: “He [Credι] invited me to see him operate. He took a probe, stuck it into an abscess, put some silver solution on it, and offered me to put it in my mouth. I did not care to do so, but he did put it in his own mouth. He told me that this silver solution would cure any sort of septic trouble.”4

By 1939, as penicillin and other antibiotic drugs began to replace silver colloids, the American Medical Association recognized at least 96 different proprietary silver-based products in clinical use at the time.5 Even today, silver sulfadiazine is considered by most medical experts to be the topical antiseptic of choice, i.e., the gold standard, in patients with extensive burns. This drug is known to inhibit the growth of nearly all pathogenic bacteria and fungi, including some species that are resistant to antibiotics.6, 7

Until 1938, silver-based products were the most widely used and most effective antimicrobial agents in medical practice. As penicillin and the other antibiotic drugs became increasingly available in the ensuing decades, silver-based products, which, by comparison, were prohibitively expensive, relatively slow-acting, sometimes crudely formulated, and often difficult to use properly (they tended to be very unstable, and had to be mixed immediately prior to use to prevent precipitation), soon fell into disuse, except for a few select applications, as noted above.

Recently, however, silver's antimicrobial properties have been enjoying a rebirth in interest among medical professionals for a variety of reasons.

• First, the overuse of conventional antibiotic drugs has led to the development of widespread antibiotic resistance among many common bacteria. There is a very real fear among infectious disease specialists that any day now a common bacterial species will become resistant to all known antibiotics. Already, several common bacteria have been identified that are resistant to every antibiotic but one--vancomycin. As this article was being prepared, the New England Journal of Medicine published the most recent incidence of this frightening trend, an outbreak of multidrug-resistant pneumococcal pneumonia and bacteremia.8 Silver may have an important advantage over conventional antibiotics in that it kills all pathogenic microorganisms, and no organism has ever been reported to readily develop resistance to it.

• Second, silver-containing products are not only far less costly to produce than their pre-WWII ancestors, they are also more effective, safer, more stable, and easier to use.

• Third, and most exciting of all, it is a fact that they may be safe and effective for the prevention and/or treatment of a variety of general internal and topical infections, including:

Ear infections
Thrush (candida)
The common cold and other viral infections
E. coli infections
Intestinal infections
Sinus infections
HIV infection
Lyme disease
Food poisoning

The FDA has set out to ban the use of many colloidal silver products, calling them ineffective and “misbranded” for their labeled uses. The FDA has also begun playing up the negative side effects associated with the use of these products, particularly a condition known as argyria.9 This well-known effect of an overdose of silver salts appears as a permanent ashen-grey discoloration of the skin, conjunctiva, and internal organs. As for safety, argyria is not a recognized side effect of mild silver protein, nor are there any other side effects.

All Colloidal Silvers Are Not Created Equal
What makes VRP's colloidal Mild Silver Protein formulations so much better than everything else out there? There are three key differences.

1. Atoms, Not Ions:
Vitamin Research's Mild Silver Protein colloids are composed of silver atoms, whereas all other colloidal silver preparations are composed of silver ions. While silver ions are highly toxic at high concentrations, silver atoms are not.

2. Ideal Particle Size:
In order to kill bacteria and other microbes, silver particles need to fall within a narrow range that has been determined by scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Vitamin Research's Mild Silver Protein particles made from silver atoms are exceedingly small and within the ideal range. Most importantly, the particulate size does not change, as it does with ionic colloidal silver.

3. Stability:
A colloid is a suspension of insoluble particles in a liquid medium. As one early 20th century colloid researcher described it, “A beam of light passed through a colloidal solution illuminates its path, just as a beam of sunlight in a darkened room is visible when the air contains dust or smoke.”10 Most products today that are touted to be colloidal silver are actually not colloidal suspensions at all, but are, in reality, ionic solutions. These solutions are inherently unstable. The silver particles soon settle out, like the dust floating around a room. Using a silver product that has settled out will be ineffective at best, or dangerous at worst. In contrast, Vitamin Research's Mild Silver Protein is a true colloidal suspension, produced using a patent-pending technique that results in a highly stable product. The atoms never come out of suspension.

Early versions of colloidal silver were made by simply grinding up metallic silver or a silver salt, such as silver nitrate, into a fine powder and suspending the resulting particles in an appropriate liquid medium. But there are serious problems with these methods.

Grinding up pure silver yields large particles that do not remain in solution very long. Such solutions, properly used, could be effective—but are difficult to use. They have to be prepared just before use, shaken vigorously to force the silver into solution, quickly drawn into a hypodermic syringe and immediately injected intravenously.

An effective dose using such preparations required extremely high concentrations of silver. It was not uncommon for patients to receive an average dose of one gram of silver per day. Such doses were prone to cause argyria.

Most “colloidal silver” sold today in health food stores and over the Internet is made electrically by placing silver electrodes in water. Applying an electric current to the electrodes releases silver ions into the water. This resulting solution contains silver ions that can certainly kill a few pathogens, and in most cases does so safely. The problem is that the solutions so produced are extremely weak, containing silver ions at a concentration of only 3 to 5 parts per million (ppm). In order to be effective for treating infections, the silver concentration should be at least 30 to 40 ppm.

The particle size of these electrically made ionic silver preparations is also problematic. Although the particles start out at a bactericidal level, the fact that they are ions, i.e., charged particles, means that they tend to attract each other and soon begin forming ever larger clusters that eventually become too large to kill bacteria and too large even to stay in solution.

The Breakthrough Discovery

Formulations at Vitamin Research discovered that colloidal silver suspensions made from pure metallic silver atoms (not ions) could be an extremely effective antimicrobial agent. However, the particles were often too large, the doses too high, and the particles would not stay in suspension very long.

The also learned that Ionic colloidal silver made from silver salts could be effective but could also be toxic. While those solutions that were made electrically were generally safe, they were usually too weak to be useful. Neither of these silver solutions was stable.

The Ideal Solution
The ideal approach appeared to be colloidal silver preparation made from silver particles (pure silver atoms) of the most effective antibacterial size that would stay in suspension indefinitely. Was such an ideal formulation possible? At first, it did not seem so. But then scientists made a breakthrough. They found a way to combine trace amounts of silver atoms (which are inherently safer than ions) with a protein in distilled water to form a colloidal dispersion of sufficient concentration to be effective against pathogenic organisms. So stable was this colloid that none has ever come out of suspension, including samples produced more than seven years ago!

The next question was could this true colloidal suspension efficaciously and safely kill pathogenic organisms? Remarkably, when the clinical results started coming in, they were uniformly and overwhelmingly positive. The scientists found that their colloidal silver product was clinically effective against virtually every infectious organism tested, yet was completely nontoxic. It did not even cause argyria with prolonged use of high doses.

How Does It Work?
No one is quite sure why silver is lethal to living cells. According to one theory, silver binds to microorganisms, which somehow causes the body to eliminate them. It is also possible that silver, which is a foreign body, is recognized as such, thereby causing a general activation of the immune system, which then kills all pathogens. A third possibility is that the rapid back-and-forth brownian motion, which is characteristic of colloidal silver particles, somehow literally pulverizes the pathogens.

An even more interesting question that according to everything we know about silver, the atoms won't kill anything; only the ions are lethal. How then, could a colloidal silver preparation made from silver atoms have any clinical benefit? The answer, which stumped the researchers for several years, was actually quite obvious when they finally figured it out.

What happens when silver is exposed to oxygen? It tarnishes! That is, it becomes oxidized, forming silver ions. It's as simple as that. Unlike the injection of high concentrations of purely ionic colloidal silver, the production of silver ions with mild silver protein is slow and measured, because it only occurs when a silver atom comes in direct contact with a molecule of oxygen. Think of it as a natural, timed-release silver.

The result is a more gradual effect. The safety and prolonged anti-microbial effect of this product has been demonstrated in studies in which enormous doses of mild silver protein have been administered intravenously to people with AIDS, chronic Lyme disease, or “flesh-eating” staph or streptococcal infections. And, as the FDA-registered labeling clearly states, it has “no known side effects.”

It appears that medicine finally has its “silver bullet.”

1. Simpson W, Aberd M. Experiments on the germicidal action of colloidal silver. Lancet. 1914; Dec. 12:1359.
2. Roe A. Collosol argentum and its ophthalmic uses. Br Med J. 1913; Jan. 16:104.
3. National Standard Dispensatory. In: Hare H, ed; 1916.
4. Brown G. Colloidal silver in sepsis. Trans Am Assoc Obstet Gynecol. 1916; Jan-June:136-143.
5. Hill W, Pillsbury D. Argyria. The Pharmacology of Silver. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins; 1939.
6. Mandell G, Petri W, Jr. Antimicrobial Agents: Sulfonamides,Trimethoprim-Sulfmethoxazole, Quinolnes, and Agents for Urinary Tract Infections. In: Hardman J, Limbird L, eds. Goodman & Gilman's The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics - 9th Ed. CD-ROM. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies; 1996.
7. Harvey S. Antiseptics and disinfectants; fungicides; ectoparasiticides. In: Gilman A, Goodman L, Rall T, Murad F, eds. Goodman and Gilman's The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co.; 1985:959-979.
8. Nuorti J, Butler J, Crutcher J, et al. An outbreak of multidrug-resistant pneumonia and bacteremia among unvaccinated nursing home residents. N Engl J Med. 1998;338:1861-1868.
9. Food and Drug Administration. Over-the-counter drug products containing colloidal silver ingredients or silver salts. Federal Register. 1996;61:63685-53688.
10. Clark A. The properties of certain “colloidal” preparations of metals. Br Med J. 1923;Feb. 17:273.

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