A new light therapy could kill some of the worst antibiotic-resistant superbugs in what South Australian researchers say will be a breakthrough for millions of people worldwide.
The therapy, developed by the University of South Australia, was found to significantly eradicate the golden staphylococcus and pseudomonas aeruginosa superbugs, one of the most deadly.
“Golden staphylococcus and pseudomonas aeruginosa are both highly transmissible bacteria commonly found on human skin. But if they get into the blood, they can lead to sepsis or even death,” said lead researcher Muhammed Awad.
“Patients in hospitals – especially patients with wounds or catheters, or patients on ventilators – are at higher risk of contracting these bacteria and while antibiotics can help, their extensive use has led to waves of microbial resistance, often rendering them ineffective.
“Our photodynamic technology works differently, using the energy of light to generate highly reactive oxygen molecules that wipe out microbial cells and kill deadly bacteria, without harming human cells.”
Researcher Clive Prestidge said the technology has important advantages over conventional antibiotics and other light therapies.
“The new therapy is made into an oil that is applied to a wound as a lotion,” he said.
“When laser light is applied to the lotion, it creates reactive oxygen species that act as an alternative to conventional antibiotics.”
Professor Prestidge said current photoactive compounds are poorly soluble in water, which meant they had limited clinical application.
“Our approach uses food-grade lipids to construct nanocarriers for the photoactive compound that improve solubility and antibacterial efficiency far beyond that of an unformulated compound,” he said.
“These molecules target multiple bacterial cells at once, preventing bacteria from adapting and becoming resistant. So it’s a much more effective and robust treatment.
“Importantly, the human skin cells involved in the wound healing process showed improved viability, while antibiotic-resistant bacteria were completely eradicated.”
Antibiotic-resistant superbugs take millions of lives around the world every year and have a significant impact on the global economy.
Researchers said the next step was commercial trials to develop the therapy.