Light-Activated Oxygen Eliminates Bacterial Infections

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Researchers from University of Cincinnati developed novel approach to eliminate MRSA bacteria using light-activated oxygen.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is responsible for several difficult-to-treat infections in humans as it spreads quickly and is resistant to treatment. Now, researchers from University of Cincinnati used light-activated oxygen that eliminates antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The method expected to be effective in several other microbial infections and cancer was presented at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) on August 20, 2018.

There are few alternatives to treat MRSA infection.  For instance, The Veterans Health Care System, hires infection prevention staff to track hand hygiene. Although, disinfecting every patient admitted for MRSA could reduce the rate of bloodstream infections to 50%, the approach is not feasible at most hospitals. “Instead of resorting to antibiotics, which no longer work against some bacteria like MRSA, we use photosensitizers, mostly dye molecules, that become excited when illuminated with light,” Peng Zhang, Ph.D., says. “Then, the photosensitizers convert oxygen into reactive oxygen species that attack the bacteria.”

The photocatalysts used earlier are not effective to shake off infections as, in a molecular form the process tends to not be corralled enough to do significant damage to bacteria. Moreover, as most of the MRSA are hydrophobic it is difficult to disperse the process in aqueous media. The researchers developed a water-dispersible and hybrid photosensitizer with the help of noble metal nanoparticles that are decorated with amphiphilic polymers. The metal used in the process offers generation of more reactive oxygen species, owing to its plasmonic enhancement effect. Moreover, the metal helps in concentrating the photosensitizers to effectively eliminate the bacterial cells. The hybrid photosensitizers patented by Zhang can be formulated into a spray or gel. The researchers stated that commercialization of the gel could aid medical professionals to illuminate the bacteria on any surface with blue or red light and allow to eliminate several bacteria, including MRSA. The nanoparticles in the gel are effective within the wavelength that penetrates deep below the skin. Therefore, the gel can be used in treatment of various cancer.

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