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J Infect Dis. 2019 Jan 9. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiz018. [Epub ahead of print]

Photo-inactivation of Neisseria gonorrhoeae: A paradigm changing approach for combating antibiotic-resistant gonococcal infection.

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Wellman Center for Photomedicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
Department of Laser Medicine, Chinese PLA General Hospital, Beijing, China.
Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Department of Radiation Oncology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA.


Antimicrobial resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoeae is a major issue of public health, and there is a critical need for the development of new anti-gonococcal strategies. In this study, we investigated the effectiveness of antimicrobial blue light (aBL; 405 nm wavelength), an innovative non-pharmacological approach, for the inactivation of N. gonorrhoeae. Our findings indicated that aBL preferentially inactivated N. gonorrhoeae, including antibiotic-resistant strains, over human vaginal epithelial cells in vitro. Furthermore, no genotoxicity of aBL to the vaginal epithelial cells was observed at the radiant exposure for inactivating N. gonorrhoeae. aBL also effectively inactivated N. gonorrhoeae that had attached to and invaded into the vaginal epithelial cells in their co-cultures. No gonococcal resistance to aBL developed after 15 successive cycles of sub-therapeutic aBL inactivation. Endogenous aBL-activatable photosensitizing porphyrins in N. gonorrhoeae were identified and quantified using ultra-performance liquid chromatography, with coproporphyrin being the most abundant species in all the N. gonorrhoeae strains studied. Singlet oxygen was involved in aBL inactivation of N. gonorrhoeae. Taken together, aBL represents a potent potential treatment for antibiotic-resistant gonococcal infection.


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