Plasma therapy: An alternative to antibiotics?

Dec 15, 2010
Bacterium killing with plasma: The blood-agar dishes seeded with haemolytic Staphylococcus aureus are shown, plasma treated (left) and untreated control (right). Credit: Shaginyan, Yurov, Ermolaeva

Cold plasma jets could be a safe, effective alternative to antibiotics to treat multi-drug resistant infections, says a study published this week in the January issue of the Journal of Medical Microbiology.

The team of Russian and German researchers showed that a ten-minute treatment with low-temperature plasma was not only able to kill drug-resistant bacteria causing wound infections in rats but also increased the rate of wound healing. The findings suggest that cold plasmas might be a promising method to treat chronic wound infections where other approaches fail.

The team from the Gamaleya Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow tested a low-temperature plasma torch against bacterial species including and . These species are common culprits of chronic wound infections and are able to resist the action of antibiotics because they can grow together in protective layers called biofilms. The scientists showed not only that plasma was lethal to up to 99% of bacteria in laboratory-grown biofilms after five minutes, but also that plasma killed about 90 % of the bacteria (on average) infecting skin wounds in rats after ten minutes.

Plasmas are known as the fourth state of matter after solids, liquids and gases and are formed when high-energy processes strip atoms of their electrons to produce ionized gas flows at high temperature. They have an increasing number of technical and medical applications and hot plasmas are already used to disinfect surgical instruments.

Dr Svetlana Ermolaeva who conducted the research explained that the recent development of cold plasmas with temperatures of 35-40°C makes the technology an attractive option for treating infections. "Cold plasmas are able to kill bacteria by damaging microbial DNA and surface structures without being harmful to human tissues. Importantly we have shown that plasma is able to kill bacteria growing in biofilms in wounds, although thicker biofilms show some resistance to treatment."

Plasma technology could eventually represent a better alternative to antibiotics, according to Dr Ermolaeva. "Our work demonstrates that plasma is effective against pathogenic bacteria with multiple-antibiotic resistance - not just in Petri dishes but in actual infected wounds," she said. "Another huge advantage to plasma therapy is that it is non-specific, meaning it is much harder for bacteria to develop resistance. It's a method that is contact free, painless and does not contribute to chemical contamination of the environment."

Explore further: Researchers uncover secrets of internal cell fine-tuning

Provided by Society for General Microbiology

5 /5 (10 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Painless plasma jets could replace dentist's drill

Jan 19, 2010

Plasma jets capable of obliterating tooth decay-causing bacteria could be an effective and less painful alternative to the dentist's drill, according to a new study published in the February issue of the Journal of Medical Mi ...

Bacteria toxic to wound-treating maggots

Feb 04, 2010

Bacteria that infect chronic wounds can be deadly to maggot 'biosurgeons' used to treat the lesions, show researchers writing in the journal Microbiology. The findings could lead to more effective treatment of wounds and th ...

Plasma produces KO cocktail for MRSA

Nov 26, 2009

MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) and other drug-resistant bacteria could face annihilation as low-temperature plasma prototype devices have been developed to offer safe, quick, easy and un ...

Cool plasma packs heat against biofilms

Jun 11, 2009

Though it looks like a tiny purple blowtorch, a pencil-sized plume of plasma on the tip of a small probe remains at room temperature as it swiftly dismantles tough bacterial colonies deep inside a human tooth. But it's not ...

Trojan horse strategy defeats drug-resistant bacteria

Mar 16, 2007

A new antimicrobial approach can kill bacteria in laboratory experiments and eliminate life-threatening infections in mice by interfering with a key bacterial nutrient, according to research led by a University of Washington ...

Recommended for you

Researchers uncover secrets of internal cell fine-tuning

23 hours ago

New research from scientists at the University of Kent has shown for the first time how the structures inside cells are regulated – a breakthrough that could have a major impact on cancer therapy development.

Microscopic rowing—without a cox

Jul 29, 2014

Many different types of cell, including sperm, bacteria and algae, propel themselves using whip-like appendages known as flagella. These protrusions, about one-hundredth of a millimetre long, function like ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Pkunk_
5 / 5 (2) Dec 15, 2010
This is HUGE news.

A simple topically applied physical process that is able to get rid to bacteria (and probably other baddies like fungi).

I can't imagine bacteria developing immunity to this very easily since it a brute force method that practically strips away at the atomic level.

Perfect for surface wounds .. Who knows with endoscopes perhaps they can even apply internally. One of those simple ideas that makes you wonder why you didn't think of it.