Could New Therapies For Drug-Resistant Staph Help To Breed Even Worse Mutant Super-Bacteria?

Illustration for article titled Could New Therapies For Drug-Resistant Staph Help To Breed Even Worse Mutant Super-Bacteria?

Antibiotic-resistant staph bugs are a terrifying prospect: a potentially deadly skin infection that resists most traditional treatments. But now, researchers think they've found a weapon against MRSA: hitting it with low-temperature plasma.

One set of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics are trialling a device for quickly disinfecting human skin using low-temperature plasma, which would save a significant amount of time, compared to traditional hospital scrubbing.

The second is an "argon plasma torch", developed with ADTEC Plasma Technology Ltd in Japan, for disinfecting chronic non-healing wounds. This terrifying sounding device can specifically target bacteria but is harmless to human cells.


MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) arose as such a threat because it is mutation that is resistant all but the most powerful antibiotics. It can prove lethal if it spreads to your heart or other key organs. But finding stronger treatments against MRSA may not be the best long-term solution — by attacking the bugs with plasma, we may ensure that the mutations that survive will be even tougher. We're effectively breeding Fremen bacteria.

[via the Institute of Physics]

Share This Story

Get our `newsletter`


Dr Emilio Lizardo

To a large extent, your concerns about plasma creating super bugs are not valid, just as concerns that detergent based antimicrobial hand soaps causing resistant organisms are unfounded.

Antibiotic resistance occurs by completely different mechanisms which do not apply to mechanical methods of cell kill such as plasma or bacteria. Of course, in theory a bacterial strain could become resistant to anything but for many reasons, this is less of a concern with non-antibiotic bacteriacidal techniques.