Far-UVC, a type of ultraviolet (UV) light, delivered through light-diffusing optical fibres is highly effective at killing drug-resistant bacteria. The technology is designed to prevent epidermal infections around medical devices that penetrate the skin, such as catheters or mechanical heart pump drivelines (PLoS One 2018; 13(8):e0202275).
Researchers used a laser to send 224 nm far-UVC light through a thin flexible optical fibre. The fibres were laid directly over tissue cultures containing MRSA bacteria, which were efficiently killed by the far-UVC light that was being emitted from the fibres.
When delivered using a light-diffusing optical fibre (pictured above),
far-UVC can kill bacteria without harming the epidermis.
Photo by David Welch courtesy of Columbia University
Irving Medical Center Newsroom.
“Our study suggests that far-UVC light, delivered by optical fibres that can be incorporated into skin-penetrating devices, could be used to prevent catheter-based and driveline infections,” said study author Dr. David J. Brenner, PhD, professor and director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York, in a press release.
Background on far-UVC
In a previous investigation using mouse models, Dr. Brenner and his colleagues demonstrated that a narrow spectrum of far-UVC light, with wavelengths between 207 to 224 nanometers (nm), can kill MRSA bacteria without damaging human skin (PLoS One 2016; 11(6):e0138418).
Conventional germicidal UV light, with a wavelength of 254 nm, is also effective at killing bacteria, but it cannot be used in health care settings around people because it can harm the skin and eyes. Far-UVC light is safe for people because even though it is deadly for bacteria, it cannot penetrate the outer layer of dead skin.
“This application would be used for catheters or drivelines that have to be kept in place for long periods of time, and it is hard to keep the area where they penetrate the skin sterile. Incorporating these thin, far-UVC-emitting fibres into the catheter or driveline may be the solution,” explained Dr. Brenner.
It is important to note that the study was performed on bacteria in laboratory tissue cultures, not on living animals or human patients. Studies to determine if the technology can prevent infections around skin-penetrating lines in animal models are currently ongoing.
The technology to make the equipment easily portable and affordable is also under development.