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Medical Light Roundup

March 31, 2006

Scientists are now looking to lasers to help kill harmful bacteria.


Fighting disease with light. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Many infectious bacteria and fungi are becoming resistent to antibiotics. Doctors administer light-sensitive drugs that are quickly absorbed by microbes, but not by the body’s own cells. Then, doctors shine a laser on the area. The intense light activates the drugs, killing the bugs, but not harming normal cells. The treatment is being tested for infections of the mouth and esophagus, where it’s easiest to weild the laser.

In related research, scientists have found that laser light shined on cancer cells reflects differently than light reflected off healthy cells. Duke University scientists have exploited that fact to create a laser probe that scans for cancer cells in the esophagus, allowing them to discover and treat cancer much earlier. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.