BUSINESS

Global Superbugs Herald Age of Silver

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK ( Bullion Bulls Canada ) -- For several years I have been touting silver's unique anti-microbial properties . Out of the nearly infinite list of technological/industrial applications for silver, it always seemed inevitable to me that this one use would ultimately become our single greatest need for the Metal of the Moon .

That suspicion could, in turn, be traced back to a single threat that has loomed ever larger, ever more menacing: superbugs. This is the colloquial name given to the bacterial monsters we have created through the reckless, excessive and simply idiotic manner in which our species has overused its single most important medicine: antibiotics.

Most readers are already familiar with the path that led us to what the World Health Organization is now openly labeling as the world's "post-antibiotic era." For those not suitably terrified by the ominous meaning of those words, read this quote from WHO Director-General Margaret Chan: "Things as common as strep throat or a child's scratched knee could once again kill."

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This is not hyperbole, as a chilling article in Bloomberg makes clear. The article identifies a newly discovered gene that exhibits two terrifying features: it renders bacteria invulnerable to antibiotics and it can transform virtually any type of bacteria into a new superbug. The bubonic plague and cholera are only two that are mentioned.

Fortunately, ingenuity has provided us with a means to mitigate this medical catastrophe: silver anti-microbial technology. While the relentless over-use of antibiotics has ruined their effectiveness, scientists have been systematically designing silver-based applications to protect us from these killers. These are not treatments, but can be used to create anti-bacterial clothing and surfaces to help prevent diseases from spreading.

Given the significant increase in the price of silver over the past decade, many readers may view the creation of a partial "silver shield" around us as prohibitively expensive. But silver is only a tiny component in these products, as literally microscopic amounts are sufficient to convey this anti-bacterial protection, less than 1/1,000th part silver (by weight).

Antibiotics and silver-based anti-microbial products fight bacteria in entirely different manners. Antibiotics essentially poison each individual bacteria cell. The substance is ingested by the bacteria and takes time to kill each and every cell.

This explains how bacteria have been able to evolve into resistant strains, in a classic case of survival of the fittest. Most bacteria die, but they can potentially leave behind a few survivors that have developed a mutation that allows them to survive the onslaught. In a relatively short time, a "lottery winner" emerges that can not only resist a particular drug but then reproduce, passing that resistance on to its offspring.

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