Weaponizing oxygen to kill infections and disease
Originally published on PHYS.ORG
The life-threatening bacteria called MRSA can cripple a hospital since it spreads quickly and is resistant to treatment. But scientists report that they are now making advances in a new technique that avoids antibiotics. Instead, they are using light to activate oxygen, which then wipes out antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The method also could be used to treat other microbial infections, and possibly even cancer.
The researchers are presenting their results today at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
Clinical facilities currently have few alternatives when trying to rid their patients of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). The Veterans Health Care System, for example, hires infection prevention staff to track hand hygiene. Going even further, one recent study found that disinfecting every patient admitted to an acute-care setting cut the rate of bloodstream infections in half. However, this procedure isn't 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."