When light outshines drugs

May 1, 2009
During the Annual Conference of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery (ASLMS, April 1-5, National Harbor, MD), I learned of two laser-based treatments that have been shown to outperform traditional drug-based approaches.
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During the Annual Conference of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery (ASLMS, April 1-5, National Harbor, MD), I learned of two laser-based treatments that have been shown to outperform traditional drug-based approaches. Ryan Maloney, medical director of Erchonia Medical (McKinney, TX) reported that laser treatment can significantly reduce cholesterol and triglycerides levels (see www.bioopticsworld.com/articles/358034)–and he told me that the treatment reduces these levels more quickly than does the drug Lipitor.

At the Nomir Medical Technologies (Waltham, MA) booth I learned something the Nomir folks aren’t yet allowed to publish: that a study comparing the company’s light-based toenail-fungus treatments with the drug Lamisil showed the laser approach able to produce three times better results in about half the time.

These results are particularly exciting, I think, because such pharmaceutical remedies often imply significant side effects, not to mention interaction with other drugs.

Applying light to TB

I thought of these examples as I read that the emergence and spread of multidrug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant (M/XDR-TB) forms of tuberculosis (TB) has produced a situation that is “already alarming, and it is poised to grow much worse, very quickly,” according to World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan. Although incidents in the U.S. have been declining (the recent California prison and Chicago hospital scares notwithstanding), the fast-acting, deadly, and highly contagious disease threatens much of the world.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S.’s National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has emphasized the need for new TB drugs. But let’s hope he’s also been reading the recent news about bio-optics and biophotonics treatments.

A study published March 17 inPLoS Medicine reports that ultraviolet lights can reduce the spread of TB in hospital wards and waiting rooms by 70%. Installation of simple ultraviolet C (UVC) lights is inexpensive and, as the study suggests, effective against even drug-resistant strains of TB. (see www.bioopticsworld.com/articles/356487).

The same journal later reported a new fluorescent method for on-site TB diagnosis that promises to speed the diagnostic process from several weeks to several days or even hours (see www.bioopticsworld.com/articles/356966).

Similarly, Carl Zeiss (Jena, Germany) and FIND, the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (Geneva, Switzerland), have partnered to develop a new fluorescence microscope that promises fast, reliable, and affordable TB detection (see www.bioopticsworld.com/articles/344410).

Light-based approaches have overcome drug resistance in several other bacterial infections. I’m hopeful news will come soon demonstrating the use of such approaches for treatment of TB in patients, too.

About the Author

Barbara Gefvert | Editor-in-Chief, BioOptics World (2008-2020)

Barbara G. Gefvert has been a science and technology editor and writer since 1987, and served as editor in chief on multiple publications, including Sensors magazine for nearly a decade.

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