Research – Antimicrobial Blue Light versus Pathogenic Bacteria: Mechanism, Application in the Food Industry, Hurdle Technologies and Potential Resistance


Blue light primarily exhibits antimicrobial activity through the activation of endogenous photosensitizers, which leads to the formation of reactive oxygen species that attack components of bacterial cells. Current data show that blue light is innocuous on the skin, but may inflict photo-damage to the eyes. Laboratory measurements indicate that antimicrobial blue light has minimal effects on the sensorial and nutritional properties of foods, although future research using human panels is required to ascertain these findings. Food properties also affect the efficacy of antimicrobial blue light, with attenuation or enhancement of the bactericidal activity observed in the presence of absorptive materials (for example, proteins on meats) or photosensitizers (for example, riboflavin in milk), respectively. Blue light can also be coupled with other treatments, such as polyphenols, essential oils and organic acids. While complete resistance to blue light has not been reported, isolated evidence suggests that bacterial tolerance to blue light may occur over time, especially through gene mutations, although at a slower rate than antibiotic resistance. Future studies can aim at characterizing the amount and type of intracellular photosensitizers across bacterial species and at assessing the oxygen-independent mechanism of blue light—for example, the inactivation of spoilage bacteria in vacuum-packed meats. View Full-Text

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