Revisiting the antiviral properties of silver

Posted By

No stone is being left unturned in the race to unravel the complexities of the novel coronavirus. Just as researchers are experimenting with existing drugs as clinical treatment for pandemic patients, proven antimicrobials and antivirals are being revisited for potential application against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Silver is one such well-documented method for extinguishing bacteria, mold, mildew and viruses.

It has been understood for centuries that silver is an effective antimicrobial. In recent years, scientists and clinicians have specifically studied the impact of silver on viruses, including Coronaviruses, a family of viruses that range from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus and Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS). 1

One study found silver inactivates enveloped viruses like coronaviruses through a charge-based interaction with their outer lipid envelope layer.2 Another study found silver ion-containing powders kill human and cat coronaviruses, with significant reductions seen in just one hour. 3

Particularly encouraging is the demonstrated ability for silver nanoparticles to prevent coronaviruses from infecting mammalian host cells in vitro. Silver nanoparticles were found to impede the virus’ entry into host cells, preventing virus-mediated infection.4

Silver ions have also been found to inactivate the flu virus4, a seasonal virus that has public health officials panicked as they consider how it will complicate addressing the threat of COVID-19. Additional studies have demonstrated silver’s effectiveness against everything from the norovirus, to HIV, herpes simplex and dengue.

While researchers across the globe advance in their pursuit of an answer to SARS-CoV-2, it can already be said that the combination of silver’s ability to effectively combat viruses and antibiotic-resistant pathogens makes it a highly effective infection control technology in response to public health situations and associated concerns around secondary infections by antibiotic-resistant pathogens.



  2. Antiviral Activity of Graphene–Silver Nanocomposites against Non-Enveloped and Enveloped Viruses. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health2016,13, 430
  3. Assessment of the Antiviral Properties of Zeolites Containing Metal Ions. Food Environ Virol (2009) 1:37–41
  4. Inhibitory effect of silver nanomaterials on transmissible virus-induced host cell infections. Biomaterials (2014): 35; 4195-4203
  5. Comparison of the Antiviral Effect of Solid-State Copper and Silver Compounds. J Hazard Mater. 2016 Jul 15; 312:1-7.