Flash of red light up the nose is being tested to stop post-op infections

  • The new approach is based on previous research and is currently being trialled in Britain

Shining a red light on a patient’s nose is being tested as a new way to prevent infections in surgical incisions.

The new approach, being trialled in a British hospital, is based on previous research showing that this type of light therapy can trigger a reaction in bacteria that kills them.

All kinds of bacteria, viruses and fungi live in our noses. Although these are normally harmless, they can colonize and cause an infection if they get into a surgical incision. For example, about a third of us carry the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus in our noses, one of the leading causes of infections on surgical wounds.

How the bacteria get from the nose to the incision site is not yet fully understood, but surgical site infections are common and affect at least 5 percent of people who undergo a procedure, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. These infections can prolong the length of hospital stay: A patient with a surgical site infection will spend an average of seven to 11 days longer in the hospital, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

They can affect recovery and cause pain and other complications.

Shining a red light on a patient’s nose is being tested as a new way to prevent infections in surgical incisions (Stock Image)

This is why patients’ noses are normally ‘decolonized’ before surgery, usually with an antibiotic cream called mupirocin. But not only is the application time-consuming, but there are also concerns about antibiotic resistance.

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Flash of red light up the nose is being tested

Now British doctors hope that using a device that emits red light into the nose will be a viable alternative. In a six-month trial, 500 patients at Pontefract Hospital in West Yorkshire will undergo the treatment – a form of what is known as photodynamic therapy (PDT), which uses a Steriwave machine in a single five-minute session before lowering their hips or get knee problems. surgery.

First, they apply a light-sensitive gel to each nostril with a cotton swab. They then place a small, thin probe just inside each nostril; it lights up and when the light hits the gel it causes an ‘oxidative burst’.

This is when oxygen is generated in the bacterial cell. ‘This is not like the oxygen we breathe, but a toxic version that can damage the cell’s DNA and membranes,’ explains Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor of cellular microbiology at Reading University.

Furthermore, the way light-based treatments damage multiple parts of the bacterial cell makes it harder for them to acquire resistance, says Dr Andrew Edwards, senior lecturer in molecular microbiology at Imperial College London (neither expert is involved in the study). ‘It gives hope that this approach can become routine.’

And because human cells in the nose “are very tough and continually shed, any damage to them is insignificant,” he adds.

The maker of the red light device, Ondine Biomedical, claims it kills bacteria within five minutes, and clinical trials showed it “eliminated or significantly reduced” Staphylococcus aureus in 86 percent of wearers.

Did you know?

Multitasking with electronic devices can be bad for your brain. A study from the University of Sussex found that MRI scans of people who used their mobile phone and laptop while watching TV at the same time had less gray matter in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) than those who used just one device.

The ACC is responsible for emotional and cognitive functions, and the neuroscientists who led the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, said that those who “engage in heavier media multitasking… perform worse on cognitive control tasks and exhibit more social-emotional problems ‘, the cause of the brain differences was not clear.

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