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Gold's role in diagnosing disease

Precious metals have and will continue to play a vital role in helping to protect humans from serious disease.

In fact, gold has several known medical applications. While many of us are aware of its long history of use in dentistry, less well-known is its role, in injectable form, as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors are also experimenting with gold nanoparticles to target the delivery of drugs in the fight against certain cancers.

Similarly minute particles of gold are at the heart of lateral flow assays (LFAs) - simple to use, disposable diagnostic devices that can test for biomarkers in samples such as saliva, blood and urine.

Capable of delivering instantaneous diagnosis directly to patients without recourse to time-consuming and costly laboratory analysis, millions have been used worldwide in recent decades to screen for diseases such as malaria, HIV and many others.

According to an article by consultant Trevor Keel for the World Gold Council, the speed and low cost of these devices could be critical in the global response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), a pandemic unprecedented since the Spanish flu of 1918-20.



Given the nature of the current pandemic, quick and accurate diagnosis is absolutely critical to help understand, track and tackle the outbreak,” he said.

Among the many diagnostics which are either commercially available or in development, “increasing numbers of first-generation biomarker LFAs are being registered and evaluated, many of which are gold-based.”

Encouragingly, authorities worldwide appear to be accelerating the route to market for these new COVID-19 diagnostics, Mr Keel said.

Silver also has its role to play in combating serious diseases like Coronavirus, with its germ-killing qualities having been recognised for thousands of years. 

Known to have helped prevent the spread of disease-causing pathogens across history, silver kills microorganisms by releasing ions (charged atoms or molecules) that interfere with the bad cells’ DNA in a lethal manner – an attribute that could be useful in the fight against Coronavirus and other modern day bacterial infections. 

Indeed, you may already be using silver to safeguard your health during these uncertain times. With soap and sanitiser declared the best possible defence against the deadly Coronavirus, you might find yourself using a hand sanitiser that includes ‘colloidal’ silver – tiny particles of silver suspended in liquid. 

Trusted to help protect livelihoods – and lives – for generations, these precious metals are continuing to prove their value in more ways than one. 

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