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Virulence. 2013 Nov 15;4(8):796-825. doi: 10.4161/viru.26475. Epub 2013 Sep 25.

Can biowarfare agents be defeated with light?

Author information

1
Wellman Center for Photomedicine; Massachusetts General Hospital; Boston MA USA; Harvard Medical School; Department of Dermatology; Boston, MA USA.
2
Wellman Center for Photomedicine; Massachusetts General Hospital; Boston MA USA; Laboratory of Electro-thermo-phototherapy; Department of Physical Therapy; Federal University of São Carlos; São Paulo, Brazil; Post-Graduation Program in Biotechnology; Federal University of São Carlos; São Paulo, Brazil; Optics Group; Physics Institute of Sao Carlos; University of São Paulo; São Carlos, Brazil.
3
Wellman Center for Photomedicine; Massachusetts General Hospital; Boston MA USA; Laboratory of Radiation Dosimetry and Medical Physics; Institute of Physics, São Paulo University, São Paulo, Brazil.
4
Wellman Center for Photomedicine; Massachusetts General Hospital; Boston MA USA; Harvard Medical School; Department of Dermatology; Boston, MA USA; Department of Dermatology; Southwest Hospital; Third Military Medical University; Chongqing, PR China.
5
Wellman Center for Photomedicine; Massachusetts General Hospital; Boston MA USA; School of Chemistry; University of Wollongong; Wollongong, NSW Australia.
6
Wellman Center for Photomedicine; Massachusetts General Hospital; Boston MA USA; Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology; Indore, India.
7
Wellman Center for Photomedicine; Massachusetts General Hospital; Boston MA USA; Harvard Medical School; Department of Dermatology; Boston, MA USA; Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology; Cambridge, MA USA.

Abstract

Biological warfare and bioterrorism is an unpleasant fact of 21st century life. Highly infectious and profoundly virulent diseases may be caused in combat personnel or in civilian populations by the appropriate dissemination of viruses, bacteria, spores, fungi, or toxins. Dissemination may be airborne, waterborne, or by contamination of food or surfaces. Countermeasures may be directed toward destroying or neutralizing the agents outside the body before infection has taken place, by destroying the agents once they have entered the body before the disease has fully developed, or by immunizing susceptible populations against the effects. A range of light-based technologies may have a role to play in biodefense countermeasures. Germicidal UV (UVC) is exceptionally active in destroying a wide range of viruses and microbial cells, and recent data suggests that UVC has high selectivity over host mammalian cells and tissues. Two UVA mediated approaches may also have roles to play; one where UVA is combined with titanium dioxide nanoparticles in a process called photocatalysis, and a second where UVA is combined with psoralens (PUVA) to produce "killed but metabolically active" microbial cells that may be particularly suitable for vaccines. Many microbial cells are surprisingly sensitive to blue light alone, and blue light can effectively destroy bacteria, fungi, and Bacillus spores and can treat wound infections. The combination of photosensitizing dyes such as porphyrins or phenothiaziniums and red light is called photodynamic therapy (PDT) or photoinactivation, and this approach cannot only kill bacteria, spores, and fungi, but also inactivate viruses and toxins. Many reports have highlighted the ability of PDT to treat infections and stimulate the host immune system. Finally pulsed (femtosecond) high power lasers have been used to inactivate pathogens with some degree of selectivity. We have pointed to some of the ways light-based technology may be used to defeat biological warfare in the future.

KEYWORDS:

UV dosimeters; bioterrorism; biowarfare; blue light inactivation; germicidal ultraviolet; microbial cells; photo inactivation; photocatalysis; photocatalytic inactivation; photodynamic therapy; psorales; titanium dioxide; ultraviolet light

PMID:
24067444
PMCID:
PMC3925713
DOI:
10.4161/viru.26475
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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