Antibacterial effects of low-temperature plasma generated by atmospheric-pressure plasma jet are mediated by reactive oxygen species

Sci Rep. 2020 Feb 20;10(1):3066. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-59652-6.


Emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance calls for development of non-chemical treatment options for bacterial infections. Plasma medicine applies low-temperature plasma (LTP) physics to address biomedical problems such as wound healing and tumor suppression. LTP has also been used for surface disinfection. However, there is still much to be learned regarding the effectiveness of LTP on bacteria in suspension in liquids, and especially on porous surfaces. We investigated the efficacy of LTP treatments against bacteria using an atmospheric-pressure plasma jet and show that LTP treatments have the ability to inhibit both gram-positive (S. aureus) and gram-negative (E. coli) bacteria on solid and porous surfaces. Additionally, both direct LTP treatment and plasma-activated media were effective against the bacteria suspended in liquid culture. Our data indicate that reactive oxygen species are the key mediators of the bactericidal effects of LTP and hydrogen peroxide is necessary but not sufficient for antibacterial effects. In addition, our data suggests that bacteria exposed to LTP do not develop resistance to further treatment with LTP. These findings suggest that this novel atmospheric-pressure plasma jet could be used as a potential alternative to antibiotic treatments in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Atmospheric Pressure*
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / pharmacology
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Plasma Gases / pharmacology*
  • Reactive Nitrogen Species / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / pharmacology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects
  • Staphylococcus aureus / growth & development


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Plasma Gases
  • Reactive Nitrogen Species
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Hydrogen Peroxide