Bacterial infection is still a ticklish clinical challenge even though some advanced antibacterial materials and techniques have been put forward. This work reports that rapid and effective antibacterial performance is achieved by the synergistic local photothermal and photodynamic therapy (PTDT). Within 10 min of light irradiation, both Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus are almost completely eliminated by the action of photothermy (52.1 °C) and limited reactive oxygen species (ROS), the corresponding bacterial killing efficiencies are 99.91 and 99.97%, respectively, which are far higher than single modal therapy, i.e., photothermal therapy or photodynamic therapy with antibacterial efficacy of 50 or 70%, respectively. The mechanism is that bacterial membrane permeation is increased by PTDT because photothermy shows more severe impact only on E. coli by destroying the outmost bacterial panniculus, whereas the inner panniculus of the two kinds of bacteria is more sensitive to ROS. Hence, ROS penetrates the bacterial membrane more easily, and meanwhile, the proteins in the bacteria are severely lost after the bacterial membrane disruption, which leads to bacterial death. In vivo results reveal that rapid and effective sterilization is an important process to accelerate wound healing, and the traumas on the rats' backbones heal well within 12 days by PTDT. Furthermore, the PTDT is friendly to major organs of rats during the therapeutic process. Therefore, the synergistic therapy system can be a safe therapeutic system for clinical sterilization with great potential. More importantly, the antibacterial mechanism presented in this work has great guiding significance for the design of other advanced antibacterial systems and techniques.
Keywords: bacterial membrane permeation; biosafety; guiding significance; phototherapy; sterilization; synergistic therapy.