Candida is a type of infection that is contracted orally and typically targets the elderly and young children, as well as those who have immuno-compromising illnesses. Oral candida infections are also often called thrush, and are traditionally treated by medication administered through pills or mouthwash. But recent research has shown that silver nanoparticles can be used to kill the oral infections in a lab, and researchers hope that the study that discovered this will have future implications for the treatment of thrush.

The study was conducted by Professor Mariana Henriques from the University of Minho in the journal Letters in Applied Microbiology which is published by the Society for Applied Microbiology. The researchers hope that this new information can be used to develop a silver nanoparticle treatment that can be added to mouthwash or applied to dentures as a preventative measure.

The researchers looked at different sizes of silver nanoparticles to check their effectiveness against different forms of candida infection. Candida can cause both thrush and dental stomatitis. Dental stomatitis is more common in those who wear dentures, and can be very painful to those patients. Though there is medication for these infections, they are very difficult to treat because of the limited types of medication that can be taken orally for the illness. The microorganisms that form the infections will create biofilms, which can be resistant to many of the medications that are safe to take orally.

In the lab the researchers attempted to re-created the conditions of an oral candida infection by using artificial biofilms in an environment similar to that of saliva. Then the researchers tested the different sizes and concentrations of nanoparticles to find that the size of nanoparticles was not relevant in the treatment of the infections. The researchers expect the nanoparticle treatment to be available for many different applications.

Unfortunately however the use of silver nanoparticles may or may not be safe for oral infection treatment. Many scientists in the field are concerned about this problem but the authors of the study stress that they would not allow an unsafe product to reach the market. The authors claim that their research is still in its very earliest stages and they will not approve the treatment for clinical trials until extensive safety methods have been researched.

“With the emergence of Candida infections which are frequently resistant to the traditional antifungal therapies, there is an increasing need for alternative approaches. So, silver nanoparticles appear to be a new potential strategy to combat these infections. As the nanoparticles are relatively stable in liquid medium they could be developed into a mouthwash solution in the near future.,” said Professor Henriques.

The professor’s long term goal for the use of silver nanoparticles in treating candida infections is to integrate the nanoparticles with denture devices. This could be a key step in ensuring that candida does not have to be treated, as it will never have the chance to take root in the first place.

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