by SIMON CAVE, Daily Mail
A solution containing silver could soon become as highly prized as the metal itself - for its antibacterial qualities.
Colloidal silver, a solution of the metal suspended in water, kills virtually all bacteria, viruses or fungi - even if exposed to only minute traces of it.
Research has shown that it is effective on more than 650 disease organisms. Most antibiotics kill only about six.
Colloidal silver has been known for centuries to kill germs and was favoured by the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Earlier this century it was used by doctors to treat septicaemia, whooping cough, cystitis and shingles. But when antibiotics were discovered, clinical uses for silver were discarded and it is only recently that its benefits are being rediscovered.
Available from most health shops, it can also be applied externally to skin conditions such as acne, eczema and ringworm, as well as to burns, cuts and grazes.
As the advert goes "these are not just pyjamas, these are M&S pyjamas", complete with a silver-woven lining.
But these are not Marks & Spencer's latest bid to add a bit of sparkle to its arsenal of sexy underwear, nightwear and lingerie for women before Christmas.
The £45 "Sleep Safe" pyjamas have in fact been specially designed to protect hospital patients from the MRSA superbug - and are only currently available for men.
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The 'sleep safe' pyjamas are woven with silver thread to reduce the risk of contracting MRSA
The pyjamas are due to be trialled at 100 M&S stores nationwide following tests showing silver thread in clothes can reduce the spread of hospital infections.
Silver can destroy bacteria and is already used in some NHS wound dressings, as well as in some hospital curtains and screens.
This type of pyjama has so far been trialled in a handful of hospitals but M&S are the first retail outlet in the UK to stock them.
Campaigners branded them a "gimmick" and said the onus on clamping down on infection should be on the hospitals, not the patients.
But experts welcomed the move, despite expressing concern that their sale illustrated the extent of the public's desperation about the infections.
A spokesperson for Marks & Spencer said: "They are produced using a fabric which has two per cent silver intimately woven into it.
"Silver is know for its infection fighting properties and has previously been used by the military.
"The fabric the pyjamas are made of has been clinically proven to reduce the risk of MRSA by killing bacteria that come into contact with the fabric.
"Clinical trials are currently ongoing and are three quarters of the way through - the interim results were positive."
Katherine Murphy, from the Patients Association, said: "Superbugs are the number one concern of every patient going into hospital.
"We welcome the fact these are going on sale, but it shows how desperate the public is."
Dr Mark Enright, a microbiologist at Imperial College London, said the pyjamas would reduce the risk of a patient getting a skin infection that could infect a wound.
But Tony Kitchen, vice chairman of MRSA Support, branded the pyjamas a 'gimmick' and claimed they would not work.
"If they are like normal pyjamas then the infection can still get in because every body part is not covered up," he said.
"It sounds like a gimmick - it cannot be a super suit and probably doesn't make a jot of difference.
"The problem lies within the hospitals themselves - they are dirty and it shouldn't be up to the public to safeguard themselves, it's the ethos of the hospital that needs to change.
Mr Kitchen added: "We've had troops who manage in the Gulf but end up contracting diseases back in British hospitals.
"If it's possible to keep that clean in the dessert, why can't we do it in a hospital building."
Former nurse Pam Milward, 73, went into her local hospital in Redditch three years ago with a rash and ended up unconscious and paralysed for a month after contracting MRSA.
She said: "If they work then it's a good idea but at £45 they are very expensive for pyjamas - they should be a lot cheaper."
And she added: "It is a shame that it's come to this and it's pretty awful that people are having to take their own drastic measures to prevent MRSA and C-diff."
MRSA is a bacterium that can live completely harmlessly on the skin and in the nose of about one third of healthy people without causing any problems.
However it can lead to serious infection if it enters the blood stream and even prove fatal.
The latest quarterly figures show 1,303 MRSA cases were reported between April and June this year.