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Hemithioindigo-based visible light-activated molecular machines kill bacteria by oxidative damage

Updated: Dec 30, 2022

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is an unintended natural phenomenon that occurs when microorganisms are exposed to drugs. It is a growing health threat, and without prompt action to develop new antimicrobial modalities and therapies, it is projected to kill ~10 million people per year by 2050.

Since microorganisms evolve quickly, pathogens have adopted even the last resort antibiotics. This necessitates the urgent discovery of newer agents with a different mode of action than those that have developed AMR while maintaining, and/or improving the efficacy of existing antibiotics. In an eloquent study, scientists developed hemithioindigo (HTI)-based molecular machines capable of specifically killing growing bacteria and antibiotic-tolerant persister cells of deadly bacteria like Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) within minutes of activation with visible light, including the elimination of biofilms of S. aureus and Bacillus subtilis in as little as 1 hour after light activation, and without causing any harm to mammalian cells. While these are promising developments, as of today diagnosing infections promptly using prominent diagnostic kits like Acutis Reveal™, multiplex PCR-based tests covering a wide array of pathogens, are the only available measures to identify the pathogen and treat the infections promptly so as to lower the burden of AMR.

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