Nikolaj Sorgenfrei Blom

Killing bacteria with electromagnetic fields

Friday 23 Jun 17
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by Frederik Appel Olsen

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Nikolaj Sorgenfrei Blom
Researcher
DTU Chemical Engineering

Attempting to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria with resonant electromagnetic fields is no easy task and has never been done before. But with the DireWaves project Nikolaj Sorgenfrei Blom is going against conventions to help fight bacteria like MRSA and borrelia in a whole new way.

Nikolaj Sorgenfrei Blom, Researcher at the AT CERE research centre at DTU Chemical Engineering, is an ambitious man with a creative mind - and now he has received funding from the VILLUM Foundation to do something that has not been done before and may solve some serious problems within global health.

The DireWaves project (Disarming Resistant Microbes with Resonant Waves) will attempt to disarm a type of resistant bacteria, the biofilm-producing Pseudomonas aeruginosa, (causing major problems for patients with cystic fibrosis) by biophysical means rather than conventional chemically based antibiotics.

Preliminary studies by Dr. Blom suggest that biofilm formation in Pseudomonas aeruginosa can be inhibited by exposure to a low-intensity, low-frequency (10-20 Hz) electromagnetic field.
Other groups have found that the high-frequency (in the 100 kHz range) Oscillating Pulsed Electric Field (OPEF) technology, which is an FDA-approved brain tumor therapy in the US, also seems to affect microbes such as MRSA, borrelia and Pseudomonas-biofilm in a way that limits their growth and/or resistance to antibiotic.

The VILLUM Experiment grant is awarded to original and bold ideas, which may be risky, but may also break new ground if they succeed. The grant went to the DireWaves project because it is daring and attempts to think in entirely new ways of doing things. And according to Nikolaj Sorgenfrei Blom this is exactly the strength and purpose of DireWaves:

”We are trying to use something else than chemistry or pharmaceuticals to fight bacteria. We are even using electromagnetic fields that are so weak that they shouldn’t have an effect at all. But resonance can have an effect - like when the opera singer breaks a glass by hitting just the right note,” he says.

In addition to Nikolaj Sorgenfrei Blom, the project will involve a postdoc and a visiting professor. It is scheduled to run from 2017-2019 and has a total budget of 2 million DKK.

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