Narrow Wavelength of UV Light Safely Kills Drug-resistant Bacteria

According to a study out of the Columbia University Medical Center and published in PLOS ONE, a narrow wavelength of ultraviolet light safely killed drug-resistant MRSA bacteria in mice, suggesting its potential to reduce surgical site infections. Infections are a huge issue in hospitals due to so much bacteria, some of which comes from surgeries. According to the study, patients who develop surgical site infections (SSI) have a mortality rate twice that of non-infected patients, and estimated annual healthcare costs in the U.S. due to SSI range from $3 to $10 billion.

The researchers found that a particular wavelength of UV light known as “far-UVC” (in this instance, 207 nanometers) is not only as effective as conventional germicidal UV light in killing MRSA, as shown in their previously published study, but also shows for the first time that, unlike conventional germicidal UV, far-UVC does not cause biological damage to exposed skin.

“Our new findings show that far-UVC light has enormous potential for combating the deadly and costly scourge of drug-resistant surgical site infections,” the senior author said. “We’ve known for a long time that UV light has the potential to reduce surgical site infections, because UV can efficiently kill all bacteria, including drug-resistant bacteria and even so-called ‘superbugs.’ Unfortunately, it’s not possible to use conventional germicidal UV light when people are around because it’s a health hazard to patients and medical personnel. What we showed in our earlier work is that far-UVC light is as effective at killing MRSA as conventional germicidal UV light – and now with this new research, we have demonstrated that far-UVC kills bacteria but without risk of skin damage.”

Unlike conventional germicidal UV, far-UVC cannot penetrate through the outer, dead layer of skin to reach live skin cells, nor can it penetrate the outer layer of the eye. However, because bacteria and viruses are physically very small, far-UVC light can penetrate and kill them.

This is good news for patients who have the SSIs that sometimes accompany surgery.

raziRazi Berry, Founder and Publisher of Naturopathic Doctor News & Review ( and NaturalPath (, has spent the last decade as a natural medicine advocate and marketing whiz. She has galvanized and supported the naturopathic community, bringing a higher quality of healthcare to millions of North Americans through her publications. A self-proclaimed health-food junkie and mother of two; she loves all things nature, is obsessed with organic gardening, growing fruit trees (not easy in Phoenix), laughing until she snorts, and homeschooling. She is a little bit crunchy and yes, that is her real name.

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