Antimicrobial carbon nanodots: photodynamic inactivation and dark antimicrobial effects on bacteria by brominated carbon nanodots†
The evolving threat of antibiotic resistance development in pathogenic bacteria necessitates the continued cultivation of new technologies and agents to mitigate associated negative health impacts globally. It is no surprise that infection prevention and control are cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as two routes for combating this dangerous trend. One technology that has gained great research interest is antimicrobial photodynamic inactivation of bacteria, or APDI. This technique permits controllable activation of antimicrobial effects by combining specific light excitation with the photodynamic properties of a photosensitizer; when activated, the photosensitizer generates reactive oxygen species (ROS) from molecular oxygen via either a type I (electron transfer) or type II (energy transfer) pathway. These species subsequently inflict oxidative damage on nearby bacteria, resulting in suppressed growth and cell death. To date, small molecule photosensitizers have been developed, yet the scalability of these as widespread sterilization agents is limited due to complex and costly synthetic procedures. Herein we report the use of brominated carbon nanodots (BrCND) as new photosensitizers for APDI. These combustion byproducts are easily and inexpensively collected; incorporation of bromine into the nanodot permits photosensitization effects that are not inherent to the carbon nanodot structure alone—a consequence of triplet character gained by the heavy atom effect. BrCND demonstrate both type I and type II photosensitization under UV-A irradiation, and furthermore are shown to have significant antimicrobial effects against both Gram-negative Escherichia coli and Gram-positive Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria monocytogenes as well. A mechanism of “dark” toxicity is additionally reported; the pH-triggered release of reactive nitrogen species is detected from a carbon nanodot structure for the first time. The results described present the BrCND structure as a competitive new antimicrobial agent for controllable sterilization of bacteria.