A high-tech medical dressing that changes colour when it detects infection has been developed by scientists at the University of Bath.
The product, hailed as a lifesaver, is able to immediately identify when a wound becomes infected, allowing for quicker patient diagnostics and treatment.
Nanocapsules within the dressing are filled with fluorescent dye, which is released when triggered by toxins secreted by disease-causing bacteria within wounds. When an infection is present the exterior of the dressing changes colour, allowing for quick, bedside diagnosis.
Project leader Dr Toby Jenkins, said that “using this dressing will allow clinicians to quickly identify infections without removing it, meaning that patients can be diagnosed and treated faster. It could really help to save lives.”
According to the developers, the dressing could radically improve treatments burns victims, especially children, who are particularly susceptible to bacterial infections. Such infections can slow wound healing, increase the risk of permanent scarring, and in severe cases lead to potentially fatal sepsis.
At present, it is extremely difficult for doctors to quickly diagnose infections at a patient’s bedside, meaning that patients are often given antibiotics just in case – a risky procedure which can lead to bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics if no infection is present.
Dr Amber Young, who will lead the testing of the prototype at Bristol Children's Hospital, said: “Being able to detect infection quickly and accurately with this wound dressing will make a real difference to the lives of thousands of young children by allowing doctors to provide the right care at the right time, and also, importantly, reduce the global threat of antibiotic resistance.”
The prototype dressing has been developed by scientists at the University of Bath in collaboration with the Healing Foundation Children's Burns Research Centre and the University of Brighton.
The team was recently awarded almost £1 million by the Medical Research Council to test the dressing with real samples taken from the wounds of burns victims.
Once tested, the dressing will be developed for use in hospitals, with hopes to roll out the finished product within four years.