Want to kill Staph? Turn on the lights
So here’s something new: as summarized in this Science Daily article, scientists at the University of New Mexico are looking at a novel strategy for the elimination of bacteria from surfaces. The need is great for us in the United States. As noted by Science Daily:
… increased infection and resistance rate has not been met with a simultaneous development of novel antimicrobial and antibiotic agents; in fact, only three classes of antibiotics have been developed since the 1950s…
The researchers at UNM are utilizing a novel set of compounds (“conjugated polyelectrolytes” or CPEs) that have marked bacteriocidal activity towards Gram negative bacteria. Newly developed light-activated CPEs are essentially inert to living cells when they are in the dark, but are bacteriocidal when exposed to light. There are many potential applications from this technology, one of which as discussed by the editor of Science Daily could be to ultimately incorporate these materials into a new type of antibacterial countertop that can be sterilized by turning on the lights. One issue that must be resolved before such applications can be pursued is to assess the toxic effects on mammalian cells. It wouldn’t be a very effective approach for giving you a clean surface if it is just as toxic to you, now would it? But if it proves to be a safe compound (to us) for making a countertop or cutting board from, I do foresee that this approach would have a significant benefit for avoiding the issue raised in the Science Daily blockquote at the top (“increased infection and resistance rate“) that we are observing by the use of antimicrobial compounds in everyday use. Consider the mechanisms we discussed in Chapters 9 and 10 for antimicrobial resistance, and suggest something in the comments that this approach might circumvent to a degree!