Published in: Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B:Biology 233 (2022) 112499

Authors: Rafael T. Aroso, Lucas D. Dias, Kate C. Blanco, Jennifer M. Soares, Fernanda Alves, Gabriela J. da Silva, Luís G. Arnaut, Vanderlei S. Bagnato, Mariette M. Pereira.


The emergence of new microorganisms with resistance to current antimicrobials is one of the key issues of modern healthcare that must be urgently addressed with the development of new molecules and therapies.

Photodynamic inactivation (PDI) in combination with antibiotics has been recently regarded as a promising wide-spectrum therapy for the treatment of localized topical infections. However, further studies are required regarding the selection of the best photosensitizer structures and protocol optimization, in order to maximize the efficiency of this synergic interaction.

In this paper, we present results that demonstrate the influence of the structure of cationic imidazolyl-substituted photosensitizers and light on the enhancement of ciprofloxacin (CIP) activity, for the inactivation of Escherichia coli.

Structure-activity studies have highlighted the tetra cationic imidazolyl porphyrin IP-H-Me4+ at sub-bactericide concentrations (4–16 nM) as the most promising photosensitizer for combination with sub-inhibitory CIP concentration (<0.25 mg/L).

An optimized dual phototherapy protocol using this photosensitizer was translated to in vivo studies in mice wounds infected with E. coli. This synergic combination reduced the amount of photosensitizer and ciprofloxacin required for full E. coli inactivation and, in both in vitro and in vivo studies, the combination therapy was clearly superior to each monotherapy (PDI or ciprofloxacin alone).

Overall, these findings highlight the potential of cationic imidazolyl porphyrins in boosting the activity of antibiotics and lowering the probability of resistance development, which is essential for a sustainable long-term treatment of infectious diseases.

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