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Bacterial resistance to silver nanoparticles and how to overcome it

Nature Nanotechnologyvolume 13pages6571 (2018) | Download Citation


Silver nanoparticles have already been successfully applied in various biomedical and antimicrobial technologies and products used in everyday life. Although bacterial resistance to antibiotics has been extensively discussed in the literature, the possible development of resistance to silver nanoparticles has not been fully explored. We report that the Gram-negative bacteria Escherichia coli 013, Pseudomonas aeruginosa CCM 3955 and E. coli CCM 3954 can develop resistance to silver nanoparticles after repeated exposure. The resistance stems from the production of the adhesive flagellum protein flagellin, which triggers the aggregation of the nanoparticles. This resistance evolves without any genetic changes; only phenotypic change is needed to reduce the nanoparticles’ colloidal stability and thus eliminate their antibacterial activity. The resistance mechanism cannot be overcome by additional stabilization of silver nanoparticles using surfactants or polymers. It is, however, strongly suppressed by inhibiting flagellin production with pomegranate rind extract.

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We acknowledge the support provided by projects LO1305 and LM2015073 of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic, the Czech Science Foundation (project no.15–22248S), the Ministry of Health of the Czech Republic (AZV VES 15-27726A) and the Internal Grants of Palacký University in Olomouc (IGA_PrF_2015_022 and IGA_LF_2016_022).

Author information


  1. Regional Centre of Advanced Technologies and Materials, Department of Physical Chemistry, Palacký University Olomouc, Olomouc, Czech Republic

    • Aleš Panáček
    • , Libor Kvítek
    • , Monika Smékalová
    • , Robert Prucek
    •  & Radek Zbořil
  2. Department of Microbiology, Palacký University Olomouc, Olomouc, Czech Republic

    • Renata Večeřová
    • , Milan Kolář
    •  & Magdalena Röderová
  3. Department of Protein Biochemistry and Proteomics, Centre of the Region Hana for Biotechnological and Agricultural Research, Palacký University Olomouc, Olomouc, Czech Republic

    • Filip Dyčka
    •  & Marek Šebela
  4. Regional Centre of Advanced Technologies and Materials, Palacký University Olomouc, Olomouc, Czech Republic

    • Ondřej Tomanec


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A.P. and L.K. conceived the project and designed the experiments dealing with synthesis of silver NPs. M.S. and R.P. carried out the experiments dealing with synthesis and stabilizations of silver NPs including their characterizations. R.V. and M.K. designed and carried out the microbiological experiments. M.R. carried out the experiments dealing with genomic analysis. F.D. and M.S. carried out the experiments dealing with proteomic analysis and viability tests. O.T. was responsible for HRTEM characterizations. R.Z. contributed clarifications and guidance on the manuscript. A.P. and R.Z. wrote the paper with input from all co-authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Libor Kvítek or Radek Zbořil.

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    Supplementary Figures 1–8 and Supplementary Tables 1–3.

  2. Life Sciences Reporting Summary.

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