pH-dependent metal ion toxicity influences the antibacterial activity of two natural mineral mixtures

Tanya M. Cunningham, Jennifer L. Koehl, Jack S. Summers, Shelley Haydel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Background: Recent studies have demonstrated that several mineral products sold for medicinal purposes demonstrate antimicrobial activity, but little is known about the physicochemical properties involved in antibacterial activity. Methodology/Principal Findings: Using in vitro mineral suspension testing, we have identified two natural mineral mixtures, arbitrarily designated BY07 and CB07, with antibacterial activity against a broad-spectrum of bacterial pathogens. Mineral-derived aqueous leachates also exhibited antibacterial activity, revealing that chemical, not physical, mineral characteristics were responsible for the observed activity. The chemical properties essential for bactericidal activity against Escherichia coli were probed by testing antibacterial activity in the presence of metal chelators, the hydroxyl radical scavenger, thiourea, and varying pH levels. Chelation of the BY07 minerals with EDTA or desferrioxamine eliminated or reduced BY07 toxicity, respectively, suggesting a role of an acid-soluble metal species, particularly Fe3+ or other sequestered metal cations, in mineral toxicity. This conclusion was supported by NMR relaxation data, which indicated that BY07 and CB07 leachates contained higher concentrations of chemically accessible metal ions than leachates from non-bactericidal mineral samples. Conclusions/Significance:We conclude that the acidic environment of the hydrated minerals significantly contributes to antibacterial activity by increasing the availability and toxicity of metal ions. These findings provide impetus for further investigation of the physiological effects of mineral products and their applications in complementary antibacterial therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere9456
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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