Photodynamic therapy for infections: Clinical applications

Gitika B. Kharkwal, Sulbha K. Sharma, Ying Ying Huang, Tianhong Dai, Michael R. Hamblin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

433 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Objective Photodynamic therapy (PDT) was discovered over 100 years ago by its ability to kill various microorganisms when the appropriate dye and light were combined in the presence of oxygen. However it is only in relatively recent times that PDT has been studied as a treatment for various types of localized infections. This resurgence of interest has been partly motivated by the alarming increase in drug resistance amongst bacteria and other pathogens. This review will focus on the clinical applications of antimicrobial PDT. Study Design/Materials and Methods The published peer-reviewed literature was reviewed between 1960 and 2011. Results The basics of antimicrobial PDT are discussed. Clinical applications of antimicrobial PDT to localized viral infections caused by herpes and papilloma viruses, and nonviral dermatological infections such as acne and other yeast, fungal and bacterial skin infections are covered. PDT has been used to treat bacterial infections in brain abscesses and non-healing ulcers. PDT for dental infections including periodontitis and endodontics has been well studied. PDT has also been used for cutaneous Leishmaniasis. Clinical trials of PDT and blue light alone therapy for gastric Helicobacter pylori infection are also covered. Conclusion As yet clinical PDT for infections has been mainly in the field of dermatology using 5-aminolevulanic acid and in dentistry using phenothiazinium dyes. We expect more to see applications of PDT to more challenging infections using advanced antimicrobial photosensitizers targeted to microbial cells in the years to come.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)755-767
Number of pages13
JournalLasers in Surgery and Medicine
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • amimolevulinic acid
  • bacteria
  • fungus
  • infectious disease
  • parasite
  • phenothiazinium dye
  • photodynamic therapy
  • virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Dermatology


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