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Issue 5, 2004
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Photodynamic therapy: a new antimicrobial approach to infectious disease?

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Photodynamic therapy (PDT) employs a non-toxic dye, termed a photosensitizer (PS), and low intensity visible light which, in the presence of oxygen, combine to produce cytotoxic species. PDT has the advantage of dual selectivity, in that the PS can be targeted to its destination cell or tissue and, in addition, the illumination can be spatially directed to the lesion. PDT has previously been used to kill pathogenic microorganisms in vitro, but its use to treat infections in animal models or patients has not, as yet, been much developed. It is known that Gram-(−) bacteria are resistant to PDT with many commonly used PS that will readily lead to phototoxicity in Gram-(+) species, and that PS bearing a cationic charge or the use of agents that increase the permeability of the outer membrane will increase the efficacy of killing Gram-(−) organisms. All the available evidence suggests that multi-antibiotic resistant strains are as easily killed by PDT as naïve strains, and that bacteria will not readily develop resistance to PDT. Treatment of localized infections with PDT requires selectivity of the PS for microbes over host cells, delivery of the PS into the infected area and the ability to effectively illuminate the lesion. Recently, there have been reports of PDT used to treat infections in selected animal models and some clinical trials: mainly for viral lesions, but also for acne, gastric infection by Helicobacter pylori and brain abcesses. Possible future clinical applications include infections in wounds and burns, rapidly spreading and intractable soft-tissue infections and abscesses, infections in body cavities such as the mouth, ear, nasal sinus, bladder and stomach, and surface infections of the cornea and skin.

Graphical abstract: Photodynamic therapy: a new antimicrobial approach to infectious disease?

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Publication details

The article was received on 21 Jan 2003, accepted on 05 Jun 2003 and first published on 12 Feb 2004

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/B311900A
Photochem. Photobiol. Sci., 2004,3, 436-450

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    Photodynamic therapy: a new antimicrobial approach to infectious disease?

    M. R. Hamblin and T. Hasan, Photochem. Photobiol. Sci., 2004, 3, 436
    DOI: 10.1039/B311900A

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