Cold plasmas could be a safe and better alternative to antibiotics to treat chronic wound infections where other approaches fail, researchers say.

Plasmas are known as the fourth state of matter after solids, liquids and gases and are formed when high-energy processes strip atoms of their electrons to produce ionized gas flows at high temperature. Cold plasma is a partly ionized gas that is generated in a high-voltage electric field in a low pressure.

The team of Russian and German researchers from the Gamaleya Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow showed that cold plasmas are able to kill bacteria by damaging microbial DNA and surface structures without being harmful to human tissues.

They showed that a ten-minute treatment with low-temperature plasma was not only able to kill drug-resistant bacteria causing wound infections in rats but also increased the rate of wound healing.

Dr Svetlana Ermolaeva, who conducted the research, said the recent development of cold plasmas with temperatures of 35 degree Celsius to 40 degree Celsius makes the technology an attractive option for treating infections.

It’s a method that is contact free, painless and does not contribute to chemical contamination of the environment, said Ermolaeva.

Plasmas have an increasing number of technical and medical applications and hot plasmas are already used to disinfect surgical instruments.