Lyme disease is rampant, with 14 percent of the world’s adults having or having had the illness, according to BMJ, a British publisher of medical journals.
The disease is also sneaky: it sets off different symptoms in different people, making it hard to diagnose. Meanwhile, the Lyme bacterium multiplies and digs in, sometimes requiring people to undergo years of trial-and-error treatment to root it out.
Now, medical researchers at Duke University think they’ve found a magic bullet to find and kill the bugs.
They began experimenting with something called high-temperature protein G (HTPG), which protects cells under heat stress and has been the subject of promising research in cancer treatment.
The scientists encased a chemical that reacts to light inside a packet of HTPG. They found that the package was readily absorbed by Lyme bacteria.
When light hit the bacteria carrying the HTPG packet, the light-sensitive substance reacted, sending the bacteria’s own cells into disarray, ultimately collapsing and killing the cell.
A single dose of light wiped out Lyme bugs in lab samples. Under a microscope, the scientists could see that the bacteria’s chromosomes had fallen apart.
In animals, including people, light shining on the surface of the skin will penetrate into the tissues, setting off the reaction.
TRENDPOST: The method could be adapted to attack any kind of bacteria. All that’s needed is a Trojan horse molecule that a particular bug will absorb. When light finds the bug, the light-sensitive material goes to work and the bug dies.
The same technique could work on viruses, the researchers think.
The new procedure is part of the growing field of light therapy, known as photobiomodulation, in which light and lasers activate therapeutic reactions inside the body.