A precautionary approach to guide the use of transition metal-based nanotechnology to prevent orthopedic infections

Marta Bottagisio, Arianna B. Lovati, Fabio Galbusera, Lorenzo Drago, Giuseppe Banfi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The increase of multidrug-resistant bacteria remains a global concern. Among the proposed strategies, the use of nanoparticles (NPs) alone or associated with orthopedic implants represents a promising solution. NPs are well-known for their antimicrobial effects, induced by their size, shape, charge, concentration and reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation. However, this non-specific cytotoxic potential is a powerful weapon effective against almost all microorganisms, but also against eukaryotic cells, raising concerns related to their safe use. Among the analyzed transition metals, silver is the most investigated element due to its antimicrobial properties per se or as NPs; however, its toxicity raises questions about its biosafety. Even though it has milder antimicrobial and cytotoxic activity, TiO 2 needs to be exposed to UV light to be activated, thus limiting its use conjugated to orthopedic devices. By contrast, gold has a good balance between antimicrobial activity as an NP and cytocompatibility because of its inability to generate ROS. Nevertheless, although the toxicity and persistence of NPs within filter organs are not well verified, nowadays, several basic research on NP development and potential uses as antimicrobial weapons is reported, overemphasizing NPs potentialities, but without any existing potential of translation in clinics. This analysis cautions readers with respect to regulation in advancing the development and use of NPs. Hopefully, future works in vivo and clinical trials will support and regulate the use of nano-coatings to guarantee safer use of this promising approach against antibiotic-resistant microorganisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number314
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 20 2019


  • Antibacterial coatings
  • Antibiotic-resistant microorganisms
  • Biofilm
  • Nanoparticles
  • Orthopedic infections
  • Transition metals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)


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