BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 November 2007, 07:25 GMT
Laser treatment 'could kill HIV'
Cell infected with HIV
The treatment could kill viruses while preserving human cells
Lasers could be used to combat viruses and infections like HIV and MRSA without side effects, researchers say.

Current ultraviolet light laser treatments can kill micro-organisms - but cannot be used in humans as they would also damage cells in the body.

But using infrared femtosecond lasers with carefully selected wavelengths, a US team targeted viruses and bacteria without harming other cells.

The Arizona research is reported in the Journal of Physics: Condensed Matters.

The technology is called Impulsive Stimulated Raman Scattering (ISRS).

It produces lethal vibrations in the protein coat of micro-organisms, thereby destroying them. The effect of the vibrations is similar to that of high-pitched noise shattering glass.

However, the line of attack can be perfected so that the proteins which coat human cells remain unaffected.

So far experiments have been done on E. coli bacterial cells, Tobacco Mosaic Virus cells, as well as human and hamster cells.

After several attempts, the researchers found a level which "inactivates both viruses and bacteria while leaving sensitive materials such as mammalian cells unharmed".

Lead researcher Professor Kong-Thon Tsen, of Arizona State University, said: "The research so far suggests that ISRS will be ready for use in disinfection and could provide treatments against some of the worst, often drug-resistant, bacterial and viral pathogens."

Dr Jean-Yves Maillard, senior lecturer in pharmaceutical microbiology at Cardiff University, said: "This is quite an interesting technology but it's at a very preliminary stage and any application in humans is a long way off."

SEE ALSO
Aids virus 'could be weakening'
29 Sep 05 |  Health
Plagues 'caused HIV resistance'
09 Mar 05 |  Merseyside
Drug-resistant HIV strain found
12 Feb 05 |  Americas

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific