According to TED.com : “Since the widespread use of antibiotics began in the 1940s, we’ve tried to develop new drugs faster than bacteria can evolve — but this strategy isn’t working. Drug-resistant bacteria known as superbugs killed nearly 700,000 people last year, and by 2050 that number could be 10 million — more than cancer kills each year. Can physics help? In a talk from the frontiers of science, radiation scientist David Brenner shares his work studying a potentially life-saving weapon: a wavelength of ultraviolet light known as far-UVC, which can kill superbugs safely, without penetrating our skin. Followed by a Q&A with TED Curator Chris Anderson.”
“David Brenner directs the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City and has numerous distinctions within his field such as the Oxford University Weldon Prize and the Radiation Research Society Failla Gold Medal Award. Founded by a student of Marie Curie more than a century ago, the Center for Radiological Research is committed to exploiting all forms of radiation to improve medical care.”
“As Brenner sees it, radiation is very much a two-edged sword — used in the right way it has revolutionized modern medicine, such as through CT scans and as a cure for many cancers. But radiation used in the wrong way can be harmful. To maximize the benefits of the many different types of radiation, we need to understand exactly how they affect us, from our DNA to the whole person.”
“Over the past six years, Brenner and his team have applied this idea in working towards a safe way to kill drug-resistant bacteria such as MRSA, as well as airborne microbes such as influenza and TB, using a unique type of ultra-violet light, known as far-UVC.”
“In short, it is pure physics — far-UVC light is safe for us because it cannot even penetrate through the dead-cell layer on the surface of our skin or the tear layer on the surface of our eyes. But because bacteria and viruses are physically very small, far-UVC light does have enough penetration to efficiently kill them.”
A new weapon in the fight against superbugs by David Brenner
For those of you not familiar with TED Talks here is a brief summery from www.ted.com: “TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences — the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK each summer — TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and Open TV Project, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize”
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