THE OLIGODYNAMIC action of metals and metal compounds was noted in 1893 by von Naegeli who pointed out that "definite metals and metal compounds confer in minute quanity of water solutions the ability to change and finally kill cells in a characteristic way." Many metallic elements have been observed to inhibit the growth of bacteria and to inactivate enzymes. Practical application of such activity of metals has been made in the purification of water and in the preservation of tomato juice, of cider, and of hides.
Metallic lead, cadmium, and mercury have been noted to exert an oligodynamic action at varying distances from micro-organisms, apparently the result of solution of small amounts of individual ions in the medium. Minute amounts of certain metals have been found to stimulate the growth of tumors in rabbits.
Although the virus of poliomyelitis and that of influenza have been shown to be inactivated in vitro by salts of heavy metals, studies with viruses similar to those made on the oligodynamic action of metallic elements on bacteria are not available. Furthermore several metals are now obtainable which were not included in earlier studies.
The purpose of this report is to present the results of investigations of the possible oligodynamic action of metallic elements and metal alloys on various species of bacteria and fungi, and on the viruses of poliomyelitis (Lansing strain) and on influenza A (PR8) by in vitro methods. Table I depicts the periodic arrangement of the elements and a list of the metals employed.
Materials and Methods
Metallic elements and alloys: The metallic elements were obtained in so far as possible as pure substances, but manufacturers' analyses were accepted and no attempts were made to ascertain if there might be traces of impurities present. The manufacturers' analyses of the composition of some of the metal alloys are listed in Table II with amounts of each ingredient stated on a percentage basis.
- Received May 25, 1948.
- Copyright © 1948 by the American Academy of Pediatrics