Antimicrobial photodynamic therapy to kill Gram-negative bacteria

Felipe F. Sperandio, Ying Ying Huang, Michael R. Hamblin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

433 Citations (Scopus)


Antimicrobial photodynamic therapy (PDT) or photodynamic inactivation (PDI) is a new promising strategy to eradicate pathogenic microorganisms such as Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, yeasts and fungi. The search for new approaches that can kill bacteria but do not induce the appearance of undesired drug-resistant strains suggests that PDT may have advantages over traditional antibiotic therapy. PDT is a non-thermal photochemical reaction that involves the simultaneous presence of visible light, oxygen and a dye or photosensitizer (PS). Several PS have been studied for their ability to bind to bacteria and efficiently generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) upon photo-stimulation. ROS are formed through type I or II mechanisms and may inactivate several classes of microbial cells including Gram-negative bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which are typically characterized by an impermeable outer cell membrane that contains endotoxins and blocks antibiotics, dyes, and detergents, protecting the sensitive inner membrane and cell wall. This review covers significant peer-reviewed articles together with US and World patents that were filed within the past few years and that relate to the eradication of Gram-negative bacteria via PDI or PDT. It is organized mainly according to the nature of the PS involved and includes natural or synthetic food dyes; cationic dyes such as methylene blue and toluidine blue; tetrapyrrole derivatives such as phthalocyanines, chlorins, porphyrins, chlorophyll and bacteriochlorophyll derivatives; functionalized fullerenes; nanoparticles combined with different PS; other formulations designed to target PS to bacteria; photoactive materials and surfaces; conjugates between PS and polycationic polymers or antibodies; and permeabilizing agents such as EDTA, PMNP and CaCl2. The present review also covers the different laboratory animal models normally used to treat Gram-negative bacterial infections with antimicrobial PDT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-120
Number of pages13
JournalRecent Patents on Anti-Infective Drug Discovery
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Antimicrobial photodynamic therapy
  • Gram-negative bacteria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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