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Fighting 'Superbugs' with Physics

Fighting 'Superbugs' with Physics

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Friday, July 5, 2019/Categories: natural history, video, sustainability, environment

                                                                   Superbugs (credit: YouTube)

We're creating a class of 'superbugs' by human-directed evolution.

The discovery of antibiotics in the mid-20th Century allowed rapid medical advances in the prevention of infections. However, as more antibiotics came into common use, including health-care, surgery, agriculture, and sports, their effectiveness began declining due to the evolutionary process of natural selection. Surviving bacteria from a given use were resistant to the antibiotic used. A war of attrition began spiraling between developing new antibiotics and the resistance to the previous drug. Bugs turned into 'superbugs' beating out the dwindling supply of new antibiotics producing what is now known as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA. MRSA now kills over 700,000 people/year and by 2050 is predicted to potentially exceed 10 million people, more than cancer does today.

Physicist David Brener with the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University took a completely different approach to addressing this medical crisis. In a 'Frontiers of Science' presentation Brener shares his work using an ultraviolet light wavelength called far-UVC light, that safely destroys microbes. By sterilizing physical surfaces, without penetrating human skin, Brener may have also developed a simple and inexpensive method of preventing the transmission of diseases, infections, and food contamination in the process.

WHB

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