New plasma jet gives 'cold' shoulder to 'superbugs'

Scientists at Queen's University Belfast have developed a new technique which has the potential to kill off hospital superbugs like Pseudomonas aeruginosa, C. difficile and MRSA.

As revealed in the most recent edition of leading journal , the novel method uses a jet to rapidly penetrate dense bacterial structures known as biofilms which bind bacteria together and make them resistant to conventional chemical approaches. The new approach developed by scientists in the School of Mathematics and Physics and the School of Pharmacy at Queen's passes electrical currents through flowing gas mixtures to create a wide variety of reactive species. These then effectively penetrate biofilms of and MRSA and rapidly kill the bacteria within.

Currently antibiotics and disinfectants are used to target bugs in hospitals like Pseudomonas aeruginosa, C. difficile and MRSA. Effective in killing individual bacteria, they are often ineffective against complex organised communities of bacteria.

Professor Bill Graham, from the Centre for at Queen's, said: "When bacteria congregate on surfaces they produce a kind of glue which joins them together in complex communities, known as biofilms. Instead of individual bacteria, they form a resistant film or layer and bind themselves together. This often makes it impossible for antibiotics to penetrate through and kill the bacteria deep within this protective layer. Bacteria growing like this, as is often seen with superbugs in hospitals, are often more than 1000 times more tolerant to antimicrobial agents like antibiotics and disinfectants compared to free-floating bacteria.

"The technique we've used, known as a cold , creates a number of agents which rapidly kill bacteria, even within mature . Not only does it attack the bacteria but this synergistic approach attacks the biofilm structure killing the bacteria deep within." Dr Brendan Gilmore, from the School of Pharmacy at Queen's, said: "In the present study we have looked at Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which causes a number of serious infections in patients with chronic lung disease like cystic fibrosis, wounds and hospital acquired infections. It is particularly harmful to hospital patients with compromised immune systems. Other applications could include MRSA and other drug resistance superbugs like C. difficile and its spores. We are currently investigating these and some types of viruses.

"This approach has the potential to control hospital superbugs. These 'cold' plasmas could be used widely in hospitals, surgeries and in the community as hand held devices for rapid decontamination of surfaces, including the skin, or be incorporated into bigger devices for decontamination of larger areas. Their ability to rapidly decontaminate surfaces has the potential to curb the spread of harmful bacteria, including multidrug resistant such as MRSA."

More information: The paper can be viewed online at www.plosone.org/article/info:d… journal.pone.0044289

Related Stories

Disinfectants may promote growth of superbugs

Dec 27, 2009

Using disinfectants could cause bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics as well as the disinfectant itself, according to research published in the January issue of Microbiology. The findings could have important implic ...

Plasma therapy: An alternative to antibiotics?

Dec 15, 2010

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.

Scientists develope new agents to battle MRSA

Mar 25, 2009

Experts from Queen's University Belfast have developed new agents to fight MRSA and other hospital-acquired infections that are resistant to antibiotics. The fluids are a class of ionic liquids that not only kill colonies ...

Recommended for you

Growing a blood vessel in a week

Oct 24, 2014

The technology for creating new tissues from stem cells has taken a giant leap forward. Three tablespoons of blood are all that is needed to grow a brand new blood vessel in just seven days. This is shown ...

Testing time for stem cells

Oct 24, 2014

DefiniGEN is one of the first commercial opportunities to arise from Cambridge's expertise in stem cell research. Here, we look at some of the fundamental research that enables it to supply liver and pancreatic ...

Team finds key signaling pathway in cause of preeclampsia

Oct 23, 2014

A team of researchers led by a Wayne State University School of Medicine associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology has published findings that provide novel insight into the cause of preeclampsia, the leading cause ...

Rapid test to diagnose severe sepsis

Oct 23, 2014

A new test, developed by University of British Columbia researchers, could help physicians predict within an hour if a patient will develop severe sepsis so they can begin treatment immediately.

User comments