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Ultra-short Pulse Laser Kills Bacteria In Vivo

Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have developed an ultrashort-pulse laser that can kill microbes, such as bacteria and viruses, with ease, but does not harm human cells.

An alternative approach to antibiotic development is the use of physical methods to inactivate pathogens in the context of therapy and vaccine production. Such a physical technique can ostensibly be applied to treat superficial infections or be coupled with a pheresis-like system to treat bloodstream infections, while inactivated pathogens can serve as whole-cell vaccines. Unfortunately, the existing physical methods including ultraviolet (UV) radiation, gamma-rays, X-rays, and heating cause extensive collateral damage to human proteins and nucleic acids, making them unsuitable for use in vivo.

The ideal physical method for clinical pathogen inactivation would be a simple one-step treatment process that inactivates a broad spectrum of pathogens, without the need to introduce chemical or biological agents. Furthermore, the method should not involve ionizing radiation or thermal heating which damage biomolecular structures. In these regards, ultrashort pulsed (USP) lasers represent a promising new approach for pathogen inactivation in the clinical setting.

(Inactivation of multidrug-resistant bacteria and bacterial spores and generation of high-potency bacterial vaccines using ultrashort pulsed lasers)

Fans of sf author Robert J. Sawyer may recall this idea from his 2003 novel Hybrids (Neanderthal Parallax):

Mary stripped naked...and went through the tuned-laser decontamination process, coherent beams at precise wave-lengths passing through her flesh to zap foreign molecules within her body.
(Read more about tuned-laser decontamination)

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