Dec 192010
 

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 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 includingPseudomonas aeruginosa andStaphylococcus aureus. 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.

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