Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have demonstrated how a process that occurs naturally during lightning strikes recreated in the lab can be used to inactivate multidrug-resistant pathogens.
The study, which tested the ability of plasma-activated water – water that has higher concentrations of free oxygen and nitrogen produced by discharging plasma into it at low temperatures – found that it was effective in killing these pathogens.
Plasma is the fourth state of matter, after solids, liquids, and gases. Lightning is a common example of plasma, and in nature it causes oxygen and nitrogen to get dissolved in water.
The IISc researchers were able to increase the concentration of free radicals of these elements using techniques such as increasing the velocity of the water by placing it in a funnel and cooling it down.
Moreover, the reactive oxygen and nitrogen (RON) created in the lab – H2O2, NO2−, and NO3 – was far more long-lasting than what is found in nature, giving it the ability to be used as a medium to inactivate the multidrug resistant bacteria.
The plasma-activated water can act as a bactericide for up to 1-2 weeks, they said.
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“Typically, a high concentration of long‐lived RONS species is believed to exhibit greater bactericidal activity and can also potentially target multidrug resistant (MDR) pathogens,” IISc said in a statement.
In terms of its uses, they said the newly generated plasma water was an effective tool to tackle multidrug resistant pathogens for which there are few treatments available. The plasma water can be used as a disinfectant on skin and in treating burns and wounds.
The future scope of this study includes more in-depth study into the generation of this plasma water and a better understanding into the chemistry of the RON formation in the water, the researchers added.