We have identified a natural clay mixture that exhibits in vitro antibacterial activity against a broad spectrum of bacterial pathogens. We collected four samples from the same source and demonstrated through antibacterial susceptibility testing that these clay mixtures have markedly different antibacterial activity against Escherichia coli and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Here, we used X-ray diffraction (XRD) and inductively coupled plasma--optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) and--mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) to characterize the mineralogical and chemical features of the four clay mixture samples. XRD analyses of the clay mixtures revealed minor mineralogical differences between the four samples. However, ICP analyses demonstrated that the concentrations of many elements, Fe, Co, Cu, Ni, and Zn, in particular, vary greatly across the four clay mixture leachates. Supplementation of a non-antibacterial leachate containing lower concentrations of Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, and Zn to final ion concentrations and a pH equivalent to that of the antibacterial leachate generated antibacterial activity against E. coli and MRSA, confirming the role of these ions in the antibacterial clay mixture leachates. Speciation modeling revealed increased concentrations of soluble Cu(2+) and Fe(2+) in the antibacterial leachates, compared to the non-antibacterial leachates, suggesting these ionic species specifically are modulating the antibacterial activity of the leachates. Finally, linear regression analyses comparing the log10 reduction in bacterial viability to the concentration of individual ion species revealed positive correlations with Zn(2+) and Cu(2+) and antibacterial activity, a negative correlation with Fe(3+), and no correlation with pH. Together, these analyses further indicate that the ion concentration of specific species (Fe(2+), Cu(2+), and Zn(2+)) are responsible for antibacterial activity and that killing activity is not solely attributed to pH.
Otto, C. C., & Haydel, S. E. (2013). Exchangeable Ions Are Responsible for the In Vitro Antibacterial Properties of Natural Clay Mixtures. PLoS ONE, 8(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0064068