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Laser treatment could help kill superbugs: study

A laser treatment that wipes out drug-resistant bacterial infections may one day help doctors tackle the growing problem of superbugs, British researchers said.

Laboratory experiments showed that a laser-activated dye widely used for medical diagnosis produces a number of bacteria-killing chemicals, Michael Wilson of University College London and colleagues said.

It could be used for spot treatment of skin infections and save the use of infused or oral antibiotics for more serious cases, they wrote in the journal BioMed Central Microbiology.

Their study showed indocyanine green dye killed a wide range of bacteria including Staphyloccus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes and Pseudomonas aeruginosa whan activated by a near-infrared laser.

Methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus, or MRSA, infections can range from boils to more severe infections of the bloodstream, lungs and surgical sites. Most cases are associated with hospitals, nursing homes or other health care facilities.

The superbug is a growing problem worldwide and can cause life-threatening and disfiguring infections and can often only be treated with expensive, intravenous antibiotics.

This new approach using a dye safe for humans could save lives and get people out of the hospital more quickly - and cheaply, the researchers said.

“The growing resistance to conventional antibiotics among organisms that infect wounds and burns makes such infections difficult to treat,” Wilson's team wrote.

The treatment is promising because the activated dye targets both the bacteria's DNA and membrane, a two-pronged attack making resistance unlikely to develop, even after repeated use, they said.

The researchers said they conducted their experiments using bacteria grown in a lab so the next step is testing the laser on mice before starting human trials. (Reuters)