Colour changing dressing could save lives

A medical dressing that signals infection by changing colour could rapidly decrease the use of anitbiotics, according to research from Bath University.

The dressing works when it detects toxins from bacteria, it then releases fluorescent dye from small capsules and changes colour. Once the bandage has changed colour it allows medical professionals to treat the infection more quickly.

Project leader from Bath University, Dr Toby Jenkins, said “it could really help to save lives”. The revolutionary dressing will be particularly helpful in the treatment of children with burns.

Young burn victims are very susceptible to bacterial infections, which can slow the healing of a wound, leading to permanent scarring and sometimes death.

The dressing will be coated with nanocapsules that contain antibiotics and a dye (shown in red) that are broken open by toxins (green) produced by disease-causing bacteria (yellow) - C=Image courtesy of the University of Bath
The dressing will be coated with nanocapsules that contain antibiotics and a dye (shown in red) that are broken open by toxins (green) produced by disease-causing bacteria (yellow) – Image courtesy of the University of Bath

Before this concept, doctors would find it increasingly difficult to diagnose infection without removing the dressing, so as a preventative measure they would prescribe antibiotics even without the diagnosis of an infection.

Because of this, bacteria are becoming more resistant to the drugs used to fight them.

The Medical Research Council has awarded the team nearly £1m to test the responsiveness of the prototype to samples taken from victims of burns.