Word is out that silver might be used in condoms as an anti-microbial agent, or as a replacement for Nonoxynol-9, but without all the potential side effects.
A group of scientists based at the University of Manitoba in Canada is of the opinion that silver nano-particles could be used to create “…a super-prophylactic capable of killing the HIV and herpes viruses as well as other STD’s” (Silver nano-particles used to make HIV-resistant super-prophylactic, Mining.com, March Howe, 4 November 2012). They’ve discovered that prophylactics more effectively combat bacteria and viruses when condoms are soaked in a solution filled with silver nano-particles. This is of course by far not the first attempt to use silver’s anti-microbial properties. There was for example an attempt in the early 20th-century to use silver to prevent the spoilage of milk. This is not even to mention the use of silver in ancient times to keep water fresh during long see voyages or the relative modern usage of silver in pharmaceutical eye-drops. The use of silver today is done on a much more effective level, especially considering that nano-particles of silver can be deployed nowadays. The use of silver nano-particles not only increase silver’s disinfectant properties, but also increases silver’s ability to neutralize pernicious microbes. According to the lead author of the above-mentioned study, Dr. Xiaojian Yao, silver nano-particles are used “…at such nanoscale, the extremely small size of silver particles exhibits remarkable, unusual physio-chemical properties and biological activity” (Silver nano-particles used to make HIV-resistant super-prophylactic, Mining.com, March Howe, 4 November 2012). However, it still puzzles scientists how exactly silver go about destroying or neutralizing viruses. They are however speculating “…that silver ions prevent viruses from adhering to host cells by either sticking to cell receptors or impeding the function of key proteins on the surface of viruses” (Silver nano-particles used to make HIV-resistant super-prophylactic, Mining.com, March Howe, 4 November 2012).
This brings us to the observation that silver nano-particles can be applied to materials (e.g. polyurethane) that are used to make condoms without altering its shape or consistency. This makes silver nano-particles, as already mentioned, a potential replacement for Nonoxynol-9, but without all the potential side effects. Nonoxynol-9 is currently used by most if not all condom makers as an anti-microbial agent in their products, but it has potential side effects such as ulceration and genital inflammation, which of course increases the risk of disease transmission. This is why it will surely be a breakthrough if silver nano-particles can be successfully used in condoms to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). This of course will surely place upward pressure on the demand for physical silver, especially if one considers that more than 5 billion condoms are sold annually.