Back to the roots: photodynamic inactivation of bacteria based on water-soluble curcumin bound to polyvinylpyrrolidone as a photosensitizer

Photochem Photobiol Sci. 2013 Oct;12(10):1795-802. doi: 10.1039/c3pp50095k.


Photodynamic inactivation (PDI), the light-induced and photosensitizer-mediated overproduction of reactive oxygen species in microorganisms, represents a convincing approach to treat infections with (multi-resistant) pathogens. Due to its favourable photoactive properties combined with excellent biocompatibility, curcumin derived from the roots of turmeric (Curcuma longa) has been identified as an advantageous photosensitizer for PDI. To overcome the poor water solubility and the rapid decay of the natural substance at physiological pH, we examined the applicability of polyvinylpyrrolidone curcumin (PVP-C) in an acidified aqueous solution (solubility of PVP-C up to 2.7 mM) for photoinactivation of Gram(+) and Gram(-) bacteria. Five micromolar PVP-C incubated for 5 minutes and illuminated using a blue light LED array (435 ± 10 nm, 33.8 J cm(-2)) resulted in a >6 log10 reduction of the number of viable Staphylococcus aureus. At this concentration, longer incubation periods result in a lower phototoxicity, most likely due to degeneration of curcumin. Upon an increase of the PVP-C concentration to 50 μM (incubation for 15 or 25 min) a complete eradication of Staphylococcus aureus can be achieved. As expected for a non-cationic photosensitizer, cell wall permeabilization with CaCl2 prior to addition of 50 μM PVP-C for 15 min is necessary to induce a drop in the count of the Gram(-) Escherichia coli for more than 3 log10. As both constituents of the formulation, curcumin (E number E100) and polyvinylpyrrolidone (E1201), have been approved as food additives, a PDI based on PCP-C might allow for a very sparing clinical application (e.g. for disinfection of wounds) or even for employment in aseptic production of foodstuffs.

MeSH terms

  • Calcium Chloride / chemistry
  • Calcium Chloride / pharmacology
  • Cell Wall / drug effects
  • Curcuma / chemistry*
  • Curcuma / metabolism
  • Curcumin / chemistry*
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects*
  • Escherichia coli / radiation effects
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Light
  • Photosensitizing Agents / chemistry*
  • Photosensitizing Agents / pharmacology
  • Plant Roots / chemistry
  • Plant Roots / metabolism
  • Povidone / chemistry
  • Solubility
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / radiation effects
  • Water / chemistry


  • Photosensitizing Agents
  • Water
  • Povidone
  • Curcumin
  • Calcium Chloride