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  • Sterilizing with Fluorescent Light
Oct 2010
WASHINGTON, Oct. 28, 2010 — The prevalence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections is well-known, causing an estimated 19,000 deaths yearly in the US and $3 billion to $4 billion in health care costs. What is less well-known is that this increased infection and resistance rate has not been met with a simultaneous development of novel antimicrobial and antibiotic agents; in fact, only three classes of antibiotics have been developed since the 1950s.

To address this need, scientists at the University of New Mexico are working on a new type of antimicrobial surface that is inhospitable to MRSA but won’t harm people or animals. Their results were presented recently at the AVS 57th International Symposium & Exhibition at the Albuquerque Convention Center in New Mexico.

The new polymer-type material, “conjugated polyelectrolyte” (CPE), with an arylene-ethynylene repeat-unit structure, has been effective at killing Gram-negative bacteria, enabling its use in a wide range of potential applications. For instance, certain “light-activated” CPEs are inert toward bacteria in the absence of light, but display bacteria-killing activity with the addition of light. This opens up many potential applications, such as antibacterial countertops that may be sterilized using regular fluorescent lights.

Until recently, it was unknown whether the CPEs would exhibit similar biocidal activity toward mammalian cells. In vitro testing performed on these CPEs at the University of New Mexico is an important first step in determining whether they are harmful to humans at concentrations envisioned in potential applications.

The title of the study, “In Vitro Cytotoxicity Studies of Antimicrobial Conjugated Polyelectrolytes,” was presented by Kristin Wilde.

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The emission of light or other electromagnetic radiation of longer wavelengths by a substance as a result of the absorption of some other radiation of shorter wavelengths, provided the emission continues only as long as the stimulus producing it is maintained. In other words, fluorescence is the luminescence that persists for less than about 10-8 s after excitation.
A material whose molecular structure consists of long chains made up by the repetition of many (usually thousands) of similar groups of atoms.
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