Antibacterial plasma at safe levels for skin cells

B. K H L Boekema, S. Hofmann, B. J T Van Ham, P. J. Bruggeman, E. Middelkoop

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Plasmas produce various reactive species, which are known to be very effective in killing bacteria. Plasma conditions, at which efficient bacterial inactivation is observed, are often not compatible with leaving human cells unharmed. The purpose of this study was to determine plasma settings for inactivation of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, without damaging skin cells in vitro under the same treatment conditions. An RF argon plasma jet excited with either continuous or time modulated (20 kHz, 20% duty cycle) voltages was used. To compare these two operation modes, only the input voltage was adjusted in order to obtain the same average power (1.7 W) for both modes. All other settings, i.e. gas flow, distance plasma tip to liquid surface, were kept constant. Bacteria or skin cells in physiological salt solution were exposed to direct non-contact plasma treatments. Short plasma treatments of up to 2 min resulted in a high reduction of bacterial numbers and did not affect dermal fibroblasts or keratinocytes. Bacterial inactivation has been previously ascribed to peroxynitrite, nitrite and H2O2 while eukaryotic cell viability is proposed to be reduced in the long term by the presence of H 2O2 and is less affected by reactive nitrogen species. The remote RF plasma jet treatment was highly effective for bacterial inactivation while skin cell viability was preserved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number422001
JournalJournal of Physics D: Applied Physics
Issue number42
StatePublished - Oct 23 2013

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