Platelet concentrates (PC) may be infrequently contaminated with low levels of bacteria that can cause septicemia and death in patients receiving transfusion therapy. We evaluated the efficacy of a photochemical decontamination (PCD) technique using 8-methoxypsoralen (8-MOP) and long wavelength UV light (UVA) to inactivate bacteria in standard therapeutic PC. Twelve phylogenetically distinct pathogenic bacteria, 5 gram-positive and 7 gram-negative organisms, were seeded into PC to a final challenge dose ranging from 10(5) to 10(7) colony- forming units (CFU)/mL. Contaminated PC were treated with 8-MOP (5 micrograms/mL) and 5 J/cm2 of UVA, a PCD treatment regimen found to adequately preserve in vitro platelet function. Greater than 10(5) CFU/mL of all 5 gram-positive (Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus epidermidis, Streptococcus pyogenes, Listeria monocytogenes, and Corynebacterium minutissimum) and 2 of the gram-negative (Escherichia coli and Yersinia enterocolitica) organisms were inactivated. The remaining 5 gram-negative organisms were more resistant, with less than 10(1) to 10(3.7) CFU/mL inactivated under these conditions. The inactivation efficiency for this resistant group of gram-negative organisms was improved when PC were resuspended in a synthetic storage medium with reduced plasma protein concentration (15%) and an increased 8-MOP concentration (23.4 micrograms/mL). Illumination with 3 J/cm2 of UVA in this system inactivated greater than 10(5) CFU/mL of 4 resistant gram-negative organisms (Salmonella choleraesuis, Enterobacter cloacae, Serratia marcescens, and Klebsiella pneumoniae) and 10(4.1) CFU/mL of the most resistant gram-negative organism (Pseudomonas aeruginosa). This level of PCD treatment did not adversely affect in vitro platelet function. These results demonstrate that PCD using 8-MOP (5 to 23.4 micrograms/mL) effectively inactivated high levels of pathogenic bacteria in PC with adequate preservation of in vitro platelet properties.