Low level laser and antibiotic resistance

Jan Tunér

“Antibiotic resistance is a type of drug resistance where a microorganism is able to survive exposure to an antibiotic” (Wikipedia).

Some of the readers of this article would probably not be alive if penicillin had not accidentally been discovered in 1928. Or at least they would have fewer children and relatives alive. The use of antibiotics on a large scale did not start until the mid 40ies. You and me, then, have lived with it and taken it for granted. But no longer! The bacteria are fighting back and we are now practically defenceless against a growing number of bacterial resistance. New thinking is needed, and maybe also old thinking, from the days with no antibiotics. According to a Swedish newspaper report, 100,000 US citizens and 25,000 Europeans die prematurely due to lack of effect of antibiotics. Not going to get lower.

Among the possible new armamentarium in the war against antibiotic resistance is laser phototherapy (LPT). Shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, the first Nobel prize in medicine was rewarded for light therapy. Light is a potent ally in the war and deserves more focus very soon. The use of blue and ultraviolet light is already well known, but less used, probably because using a pill is more convenient.

LPT will not probably harm any microorganism in itself. The immune system will, and has evolved over billions of years to handle that situation. And LPT enhances the immune system. QED?

There is an urgent need to pinpoint the situations where the single or additional use of LPT can substitute or reduce the need for antibiotics. One obvious such situation is the diabetic wound. Proper use of LPT will in the first place eliminate the wound and in the second place reduce the amount of antibiotics used during the healing process. But while we clinically know LPT as an excellent method to treat diabetic ulcers, the literature is scant, to say the least. LPT here does not kill bacteria; it simply reduces the attack areas. Fair enough.

It is known that LPT increases microcirculation. Increased microcirculation means enhanced immunological activity in an area – a hard situation for bacteria. Studies also suggest that intravenous LPT increases microcirculation in organs, making the uptake of pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics more effective, and thus requiring lower dosage.

The pharmaceutical companies have failed in finding new antibiotics and no longer keen to spend their money in this field of research. The situation is getting urgent and all avenues have to be investigated. It is time to focus on what LPT can do in this field and to initiate new studies.

Coincidentally, after writing this article, the following paper popped up on PubMed:

Silva DC, Plapler H, da Costa MM, e Silva SR, de Sá Mda C, e Silva BS. Low level laser therapy (AlGaInP) applied at 5J/cm2 reduces the proliferation of  Staphylococcus aureus MRSA in infected wounds and intact skin of rats. An Bras Dermatol. 2013;88(1):50-55.

To assess the effect of low intensity laser on the rate of bacterial contamination in infected wounds in the skin of rats. An experimental study using 56 male Wistar rats. The animals were randomly divided into eight groups of seven each. Those in the “infected” groups were infected by Staphylococcus aureus MRSA in the dorsal region. A 658 nm laser, 5 J/cm2 was used to treat the animals in the “treated” groups in scan for 3 consecutive days. Samples were drawn before inoculating bacteria and following laser treatment. The statistical analysis of median values showed that the groups submitted to laser treatment had low bacterial proliferation. The laser with a dose of 5J/cm2 in both intact skin and in wounds of rats infected with Staphylococcus aureus MRSA, is shown to reduce bacterial proliferation.