Weaponized Oxygen Can Destroy Drug-Resistant Pathogens

October
2018

Although the development of antibiotics has revolutionized medicine, bacterial resistance to antibiotics has recently become a significant global health issue. Once-effective drugs have been rendered useless by drug-resistant strains of bacteria. One of the most dangerous multidrug-resistant pathogens is a strain of Staphylococcus aureus (commonly known as MRSA), which is routinely found in hospitals and nursing homes.

Currently, there are few alternatives to antibiotics for treating bacterial infections. For example, photodynamic inactivation avoids the risk of triggering drug resistance, but is impractical for clinical use because of its low efficiency.

A novel method of photodynamic inactivation using nanoparticles, developed by chemists at the Univ. of Cincinnati, increases this efficiency by almost a million times. The researchers previously proved their method’s success at inactivating bacteria like MRSA and E. coli, and in their most recent work, they successfully killed the fungus responsible for athletes’ foot.

Photodynamic inactivation is a slightly unconventional way to kill bacteria. But because it does not involve the use of antibiotics, antibiotic resistance is not of concern. Three components are involved in the treatment: light, oxygen, and photosensitizers.

Photosensitizers are typically di-molecule chemicals like porphyrins, which convert oxygen into a reactive oxygen species when excited by the...

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