• antibacterial;
  • comet assay;
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa ;
  • silver nanoparticles;
  • viable but nonculturable


The study was carried out to understand the effect of silver–silica nanocomposite (AgSiO2NC) on the cell wall integrity, metabolism and genetic stability of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a multiple drug-resistant bacterium. Bacterial sensitivity towards antibiotics and AgSiO2NC was studied using standard disc diffusion and death rate assay, respectively. The effect of AgSiO2NC on cell wall integrity was monitored using SDS assay and fatty acid profile analysis, while the effect on metabolism and genetic stability was assayed microscopically, using CTC viability staining and comet assay, respectively. Pseudomonas aeruginosa was found to be resistant to β-lactamase, glycopeptidase, sulfonamide, quinolones, nitrofurantoin and macrolides classes of antibiotics. Complete mortality of the bacterium was achieved with 80 μg ml−1 concentration of AgSiO2NC. The cell wall integrity reduced with increasing time and reached a plateau of 70% in 110 min. Changes were also noticed in the proportion of fatty acids after the treatment. Inside the cytoplasm, a complete inhibition of electron transport system was achieved with 100 μg ml−1 AgSiO2NC, followed by DNA breakage. The study thus demonstrates that AgSiO2NC invades the cytoplasm of the multiple drug-resistant P. aeruginosa by impinging upon the cell wall integrity and kills the cells by interfering with electron transport chain and the genetic stability.

Significance and Impact of Study

Although the synthesis, structural characteristics and biofunction of silver nanoparticles are well understood, their application in antimicrobial therapy is still at its infancy as only a small number of microorganisms are tested to be sensitive to nanoparticles. A thorough knowledge of the mode of interaction of nanoparticles with bacteria at subcellular level is mandatory for any clinical application. The present study deals with the interactions of Ag–SiO2NC with the cell wall integrity, metabolism and genetic stability of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which would contribute substantially in strengthening the therapeutic applications of silver nanoparticles.