Global Superbugs Herald Age of Silver
By Jeff Nielson - 05/09/12 - 2:58 PM EDTThe following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage. NEW YORK (Bullion Bulls Canada) -- For several years I have been touting silver's unique anti-microbial properties. Out of the nearly infinite list of technological/industrial applications for silver, it always seemed inevitable to me that this one use would ultimately become our single greatest need for the Metal of the Moon. That suspicion could, in turn, be traced back to a single threat that has loomed ever larger, ever more menacing: superbugs. This is the colloquial name given to the bacterial monsters we have created through the reckless, excessive and simply idiotic manner in which our species has overused its single most important medicine: antibiotics. Most readers are already familiar with the path that led us to what the World Health Organization is now openly labeling as the world's "post-antibiotic era." For those not suitably terrified by the ominous meaning of those words, read this quote from WHO Director-General Margaret Chan: "Things as common as strep throat or a child's scratched knee could once again kill." Follow TheStreet on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook. This is not hyperbole, as a chilling article in Bloomberg makes clear. The article identifies a newly discovered gene that exhibits two terrifying features: it renders bacteria invulnerable to antibiotics and it can transform virtually any type of bacteria into a new superbug. The bubonic plague and cholera are only two that are mentioned. Fortunately, ingenuity has provided us with a means to mitigate this medical catastrophe: silver anti-microbial technology. While the relentless over-use of antibiotics has ruined their effectiveness, scientists have been systematically designing silver-based applications to protect us from these killers. These are not treatments, but can be used to create anti-bacterial clothing and surfaces to help prevent diseases from spreading. Given the significant increase in the price of silver over the past decade, many readers may view the creation of a partial "silver shield" around us as prohibitively expensive. But silver is only a tiny component in these products, as literally microscopic amounts are sufficient to convey this anti-bacterial protection, less than 1/1,000th part silver (by weight). Antibiotics and silver-based anti-microbial products fight bacteria in entirely different manners. Antibiotics essentially poison each individual bacteria cell. The substance is ingested by the bacteria and takes time to kill each and every cell.
The Price of a Silver BulletUnlike antibiotics, silver-based products kill on contact. This lessens the chances for survival and, consequently, for the evolution of a resistant strain. As a result, we can view silver-based technology as a permanent tool in our now vastly more difficult battle to protect ourselves from these tiny invaders. How much is it worth to people to increase their child's chances of survival by purchasing a crib with an anti-bacterial coating? How about anti-bacterial infant's clothing? Anti-bacterial carpeting in the nursery? Anti-bacterial flooring in the kitchen or bathroom? Anti-bacterial toys? Anti-bacterial plates and utensils? Anti-bacterial diapers? And what happens when people dare to venture outside their homes in our "post-antibiotic world"? The potential legal liability alone from people acquiring these superbugs in public places/facilities is going to create a gigantic incentive to "go silver." Hospitals, medical clinics and all related facilities have already been rapidly incorporating this silver-based technology into more and more aspects of their design and equipment. Our transportation system, from airports to public transit systems, will be under enormous public pressure to "go silver" also. Movie theaters and sports stadiums, too -- how much silver would it take to upholster the 50,000 (or 100,000) seats in just one of these stadiums? Note that part of the reason we got to this superbug crisis in the first place was because of the countless thousands of "anti-bacterial products" -- derived from antibiotics -- which flooded the marketplace, despite the fact that many of those products were never effective to begin with. "Anti-bacterial" became nothing more than a multibillion dollar marketing gimmick. Thus with a threat that is now real, and a product which is effective, the market for silver-based anti-bacterial products is literally nearly infinite.
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