Posted on January 9, 2008
Overuse of antibiotics is contributing to the increased prevalence of drug-resistant superbugs. But what if medical professionals didn’t have to rely on antibiotics to treat virulent bacterial infections?
Light therapy may be the answer.
Current research in the area of photomedicine is poised to have a huge impact on how doctors respond to serious drug-resistant staph infections like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. While antibiotics don’t always have the desired results, light therapy for MRSA-infected wounds is showing great promise, according to researchers at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Therapeutic light is not new in the treatment of human ailments. Light therapy devices are successful at providing joint and muscle pain relief, and photodynamic therapies for cancer and dermatological conditions are currently under evaluation.
The light therapy wound treatments being studied at the Wellman Center could help reduce the high mortality rate of MRSA by providing faster cures without side effects. Estimates by the Centers for Disease Control indicate that MRSA kills more people than AIDS in the United States each year.
In animal tests performed by Wellman Center researchers, a deeply penetrating light focused on a wound colonized with MRSA was able to kill the bacteria in just 15 minutes. Treatment with antibiotic medicines takes days to weeks.
Light therapy for MRSA is also good news for patients concerned about the many side effects associated with traditional antibiotics. When focused on an infected wound, the light initiates chemical processes that are harmful to the bacteria, not the patient.
Wellman Center researchers will study the use of light therapy to treat MRSA infections in human populations next.