Home E-Weekly June 14, 2016

Can UV Light Kill MRSA Without Harming Skin?

Published: June 13, 2016

Ultraviolet (UV) light is known to kill drug-resistant organisms, but it is considered biologically harmful to human skin. A new study, however, has discovered that a narrow wavelength of UV light might be able to safely kill MRSA detected on a patient without damaging exposed skin.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center tested the particular wavelength, known as far-UVC light, on hairless mice, whose skin reacts similarly to humans' when exposed to UV rays. They found that far-UVC light could not penetrate through the outer, dead layer of skin to harm the live skin cells below, but it could penetrate and kill bacteria and viruses living on the skin. As a result, they theorize that the light could be used during surgery to help prevent SSIs.

"We've known for a long time that UV light has the potential to reduce surgical site infections, because UV can efficiently kill all bacteria, including drug-resistant bacteria and even so-called 'superbugs,'" says David J. Brenner, PhD, senior author of the study. "Unfortunately, it's not possible to use conventional germicidal UV light when people are around because it's a health hazard to patients and medical personnel."

"What we showed in our earlier work is that far-UVC light is as effective at killing MRSA as conventional germicidal UV light — and now with this new research, we have demonstrated that far-UVC kills bacteria but without risk of skin damage," he says.

Kendal Gapinski

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