Scientists Develop Infection-Detecting Bandages

“Smart” bandages reduce precautionary use of antibiotics

Researchers in the United Kingdom are working on a “smart” bandage that changes color when it detects infections in burn patients. The new technology, developed at the University of Bath, has the potential to detect infection earlier and to reduce the use of antibiotics, the investigators said.

Swabs and used dressings obtained from hundreds of patients are being used in double-blind laboratory tests at the university. The tests are designed to establish how sensitive the bandages are to infections, and how specifically they react to infections that they are designed to detect.

The signs and symptoms of infection are common in burn wounds, but true infections are rare, according to the investigators. A color-changing bandage would provide an early warning that infection is developing. It would also prevent unnecessary tests in patients who do not have infections. Existing diagnostic methods take up to 48 hours and require removing wound dressings––a painful process that can slow healing and cause scarring.

Currently, precautionary courses of antibiotics are often prescribed in cases of suspected infections. The color-changing bandage would reduce this need, thereby helping to address the global problem of antibiotic resistance, according to the researchers.

“Using patients’ samples to test the dressing’s ability to detect infection will take us closer to the use of the dressing in patients,” said lead clinician Dr. Amber Young.

“Diagnosing wound infections at the bedside in patients with burns will allow targeted treatment of those with true infection, allowing earlier healing and reduced scarring as well as preventing overuse of antibiotics and unnecessary dressing removal in those patients with no infection.”

If the clinical studies demonstrate that the bandages are effective, manufacturing could begin as early as next year, according to the investigators.

Source: University of Bath; November 28, 2016.