Comparison of In Vitro Approaches to Assess the Antibacterial Effects of Nanomaterials

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The antibacterial properties of nanomaterials (NMs) can be exploited in a range of consumer products (e.g., wound dressings, food packaging, textiles, medicines). There is also interest in the exploitation of NMs as treatments for infectious diseases to help combat antibiotic resistance. Whilst the antibacterial activity of NMs has been assessed in vitro and in vivo in numerous studies, the methodology used is very varied. Indeed, while numerous approaches are available to assess the antibacterial effect of NMs in vitro, they have not yet been systematically assessed for their suitability and sensitivity for testing NMs. It is therefore timely to consider what assays should be prioritised to screen the antibacterial properties of NMs. The majority of existing in vitro studies have focused on investigating the antibacterial effects exhibited by silver (Ag) NMs and have employed a limited range of assays. We therefore compared the antibacterial effects of copper oxide (CuO) NMs to Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, and Bacillus subtilis at various concentrations (12.5–200 µg/mL) using a battery of tests (well and disc diffusion, plate counts—time-kill method, optical density measurement—OD, Alamar Blue and live/dead viability assays, and quantitative polymerase chain reaction). CuO NMs were most toxic to B. subtilis and E. coli, while P. aeruginosa was the least sensitive strain. All assays employed detected the antibacterial activity of CuO NMs; however, they varied in their sensitivity, time, cost, technical difficulty and requirement for specialized equipment. In the future, we suggest that a combination of approaches is used to provide a robust assessment of the antibacterial activity of NMs. In particular, we recommend that the time-kill and OD assays are prioritised due to their greater sensitivity. We also suggest that standard operating protocols are developed so that the antibacterial activity of NMs can be assessed using a harmonised approach.
Original languageEnglish
Article number255
JournalJournal of Functional Biomaterials
Issue number4
Early online date19 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • antibacterial
  • copper oxide
  • in vitro
  • nanomaterials
  • nanotoxicology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials


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