Blue Light May Be the Key to Defeating Methicillin-Resistant Staph Aureus (MRSA)

Womble Bond Dickinson

Womble Bond Dickinson

[author: Pam Koenig]

Scientists from Boston University’s College of Engineering have discovered a new optical microscopic technique using blue laser light which has the capability to weaken MRSA cells and potentially revolutionize treatment for the antibiotic-resistant disease.

MRSA causes skin and soft tissue infections, sepsis, and pneumonia, and it is extremely difficult to treat. The bacteria first became resistant to the antibiotic methicillin and has since become resistant to many of the antibiotics used to treat ordinary staph infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MRSA is a “serious threat,” causing 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections and 35,000 deaths each year in the United States.

In this era of evolving “superbugs,” which creates a potential looming health crisis as more bacteria adapt and become resistant to antibiotics, researchers are rushing to find other ways to treat infections. Now, researchers from Boston University (Cheng and colleagues) may have found a means to impair pathogens by using blue laser light to attack the actual structure of cells.

When the Boston University scientists further examined blue laser-treated MRSA cells, they found that small openings had appeared in the membranes, and 90% of the MRSA colony had died. Since effective MRSA eradication would require killing all of the cells, the scientists decided to couple blue light with the application of a strong oxidizer, hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide has the ability to enter the MRSA cells through the membrane holes and cause the cells to implode. As a result of this combined treatment, the scientists discovered that 99.9% of the MRSA colony had died. Importantly, this therapy did not damage normal cells.

Most significantly, Cheng and colleagues realized that blue light laser treatment, by weakening cell membranes and elevating cell permeability, increased the susceptibility and inhibited the buildup of resistance of MRSA bacteria to a broad spectrum of antibiotics. Therefore, blue light laser therapy could pave the way for conventional antibiotics to be used to combat drug resistant MRSA. The scientists also discovered that blue light pulse laser therapy was even more effective against MRSA. It allowed a shortening of therapy time and increased the depth of tissues that could be effectively treated. Cheng et al. found that blue light pulse laser therapy was successful in fighting MRSA both in vitro and in vivo in a mice skin infection model.

The development of new antibiotics is currently unable to keep up with the emergence of resistant bacteria. Blue light laser therapy could be a game-changer in the treatment of antibiotic resistant pathogens, one of the most important public health challenges of our time.

Links to news article and cited study:

Hui J, Dong PT, Liang L, et al. Photo-Disassembly of Membrane Microdomains Revives Conventional Antibiotics against MRSA. Adv Sci (Weinh). 2020;7(6):1903117.

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