Scientists at Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham are using silver to see if it can offer a defence against MRSA, the antibiotic-resistant hospital 'superbug'.
Silver is already used as an antibacterial agent in wound dressings for burns as silver ions disrupt the ability of bacteria to reproduce. Scientists at the hospital are testing the use of silver ions in a clinical environment to see if there is a clinical benefit that cannot easily be measured in laboratories.
Bethan Miles, research manager at Heartlands Hospital, told BBC One's Six O'Clock News: "Unless somebody actually takes the product, puts it in a real clinical environment and actually tests them, then how on earth can we say if it's got a clinical benefit?"
"Lots of these products will of course show real benefits in laboratory setting, but unless you actually get them into a clinic and show them in an environment where patients are, we will never actually know whether they work," she added.
Researchers have developed a method of mixing silver ions into paint, which can then be sprayed onto walls, furniture and bins to help prevent the bacteria from reproducing.
Brass surfaces have also been found to exhibit antimicrobial properties. According to the Copper Development Association, MRSA bacteria is destroyed on brass surfaces within 4.5 hours, while the figure is 90 minutes on pure copper. It says that stainless steel, aluminium and plastic surfaces do "virtually nothing" to counter the production of bacteria.
In the last few years, hospitals have been imposing stricter cleaning procedures to prevent the spread of MRSA. The NHS aims to reduce the incidence of MRSA by 50 per cent by 2008.See all the latest jobs in Medical Devices