Fighting Staphylococcus aureus infections with light and photoimmunoconjugates

JCI Insight. 2020 Nov 19;5(22):e139512. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.139512.


Infections caused by multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, especially methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), are responsible for high mortality and morbidity worldwide. Resistant lineages were previously confined to hospitals but are now also causing infections among healthy individuals in the community. It is therefore imperative to explore therapeutic avenues that are less prone to raise drug resistance compared with today's antibiotics. An opportunity to achieve this ambitious goal could be provided by targeted antimicrobial photodynamic therapy (aPDT), which relies on the combination of a bacteria-specific targeting agent and light-induced generation of ROS by an appropriate photosensitizer. Here, we conjugated the near-infrared photosensitizer IRDye700DX to a fully human mAb, specific for the invariantly expressed staphylococcal antigen immunodominant staphylococcal antigen A (IsaA). The resulting immunoconjugate 1D9-700DX was characterized biochemically and in preclinical infection models. As demonstrated in vitro, in vivo, and in a human postmortem orthopedic implant infection model, targeted aPDT with 1D9-700DX is highly effective. Importantly, combined with the nontoxic aPDT-enhancing agent potassium iodide, 1D9-700DX overcomes the antioxidant properties of human plasma and fully eradicates high titers of MRSA. We show that the developed immunoconjugate 1D9-700DX targets MRSA and kills it upon illumination with red light, without causing collateral damage to human cells.

Keywords: Bacterial infections; Drug therapy; Immunoglobulins; Microbiology; Therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / pharmacology*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology*
  • Antigens, Bacterial / immunology*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Photochemotherapy*
  • Photosensitizing Agents / pharmacology*
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Staphylococcal Infections / therapy*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects
  • Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • IsaA antigen, staphylococcus
  • Photosensitizing Agents