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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2013 Jun;11(6):371-84. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro3028. Epub 2013 May 13.

Antimicrobial activity of metals: mechanisms, molecular targets and applications.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada.


Metals have been used as antimicrobial agents since antiquity, but throughout most of history their modes of action have remained unclear. Recent studies indicate that different metals cause discrete and distinct types of injuries to microbial cells as a result of oxidative stress, protein dysfunction or membrane damage. Here, we describe the chemical and toxicological principles that underlie the antimicrobial activity of metals and discuss the preferences of metal atoms for specific microbial targets. Interdisciplinary research is advancing not only our understanding of metal toxicity but also the design of metal-based compounds for use as antimicrobial agents and alternatives to antibiotics.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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