Viral disease transmitted by laser-generated plume (aerosol)

Arch Dermatol. 2002 Oct;138(10):1303-7. doi: 10.1001/archderm.138.10.1303.


Objective: To evaluate the possibility of disease transmission through liberated plume from virally infected tissue that is exposed to the carbon dioxide laser.

Design: Bovine papillomavirus-induced cutaneous fibropapillomas were exposed to the carbon dioxide laser. Laser settings were within the range of clinically used settings. The laser plume (aerosol) was suctioned and collected and then reinoculated onto the skin of calves.

Setting: University laboratory research center.

Main outcome measures: Laser plume viral content and postinoculation tumor growth were analyzed and documented.

Results: Collected laser plume contained papillomavirus DNA in all tested laser settings. The viral DNA was most likely encapsulated. Tumors developed at laser plume-inoculated sites for all laser parameter settings. Histological and biochemical analyses revealed that these tumors were infected with the same virus type as present in the laser plume.

Conclusions: Laser plume has been shown, for the first time to our knowledge, to actually transmit disease. Strict care must be maintained by the laser practitioner to minimize potential health risks, especially when treating viral-induced lesions or patients with viral disease.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Air Microbiology
  • Animals
  • Bovine papillomavirus 1 / isolation & purification*
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Cattle
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious*
  • Equipment Contamination
  • Laser Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Laser Therapy / methods
  • Papillomavirus Infections / surgery*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / transmission*
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Assessment
  • Tumor Virus Infections / surgery*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / transmission*


  • Aerosols
  • DNA, Viral
  • Carbon Dioxide