Blue light breaks down MRSA’s defenses

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Rather than wasting precious time to find which medicine will best treat MRSA, doctors could soon use a new method to disarm the superbug: Light therapy.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bacterium that causes infection in various parts of the body can dodge many common antibiotics. Although most MRSA infections aren’t serious, some can be life-threatening, sometimes resulting in amputation of the infected appendage.

Exposing the bug to blue light can render it defenseless against antiseptics as mild as hydrogen peroxide, according to a new study in Advanced Science.

“This new tool can treat any superficial wound infected with MRSA, which are typically very difficult to treat,” says Mohamed Seleem, a professor of microbiology at Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “The device itself is very small and easy to use. We’re hoping that in the next few years, anyone could carry it around in their purse.”

Compared with a Neutrogena light therapy mask for acne, the new device is much more portable and sensible. It looks like a small box with a hole for light to come through, which contains the light to the wound.

Some bacteria, including certain strains of staph, produce pigments, which have to do with the organism’s ability to damage the host. Knowing how to reduce the pigment, might also reduce the organism’s activity in the body, a practice known as photobleaching.

“When you bleach something in the wash machine, you’re extracting the color using chemicals. What we’re doing here is similar, but we’re using blue light,” says Seleem, who researches antimicrobial resistance and infectious disease.

After achieving promising results in vitro, researchers exposed mice with MRSA-infected wounds to different wavelengths of light. The infections responded especially well to light in the blue region, and combined with a low-concentration hydrogen peroxide, reduced significantly.

The technology is patented through Purdue’s Office of Technology Commercialization. Ji-Xin Cheng, a professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University, is working to arrange clinical trials. The W.M. Keck Foundation supported the work.

Source: Purdue University