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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2005 Jul;49(7):2822-7.

Helicobacter pylori accumulates photoactive porphyrins and is killed by visible light.

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  • 1Wellman Center for Photomedicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, 40 Blossom Street, BAR314B, Boston, Massachusetts 02114-2698, USA. hamblin@helix.mgh.harvard.edu


Helicobacter pylori colonizes the mucus layer of the human stomach and duodenum, causes chronic gastritis, gastric ulcer, and is a risk factor for gastric adenocarcinoma. There is a 20% failure rate in antibiotic therapy, which is increasingly due to antibiotic resistance and necessitates the search for alternative antimicrobial methods. We have discovered that H. pylori when cultured in liquid medium, accumulates significant quantities of coproporphyrin and protoporphyrin IX, both in the cells and secreted into the medium. These photoactive porphyrins lead to cell death (up to 5 logs) by photodynamic action upon illumination with low doses of visible light, with blue/violet light being most efficient. The degree of killing increases with the age of the culture and is greater than that found with Propionibacterium acnes (another bacterium known to be photosensitive due to porphyrin accumulation). Both virulent and drug-resistant strains are killed. The data suggest that phototherapy might be used to treat H. pylori infection in the human stomach.

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