Colour-changing dressing could change lives

Tuesday 17th November 2015

Colour-changing dressing could change lives

Around 5,000 children and 13,000 adults a year in England and Wales are treated in hospital with serious burns. Infection is a common and serious complication for these patients, but at present it is difficult for doctors to diagnose these infections, and confirmation can take several days.

Queen Victoria Hospital and partner organisations, The University of Brighton and the Blond McIndoe Research Foundation in East Grinstead – are playing a key role in a £1m research project to test the effectiveness of a new infection-detecting dressing which aims to improve treatment and save lives. The funding has been awarded by the Medical Research Council through their Biomedical Catalyst Stream.

Together with the University of Bath and the Healing Foundation Children’s Burns Research Centre, based at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, the team has developed a prototype dressing that will detect infection by a simple and easily-observed colour change, alerting healthcare professionals that the wound is infected.

Children are at particular risk of serious infection from even a small burn. Swab samples from children at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children are being tested to further prove the effectiveness of the dressings.  Being able to detect infection quickly and accurately 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.

Dr Brian Jones, Reader in Molecular and Medical Microbiology at the university’s School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, and Research Director at QVH said: “The dressing technology we are helping to develop here could be of real benefit to many patients. This could not only help clinicians provide the best possible treatment for patients with burns, but could also help us understand how wound infections begin and how they affect the normal healing process.”

The medical dressing works by releasing fluorescent dye from nanocapsules triggered by the presence of disease-causing bacteria. This allows clinicians to quickly identify infections without having to remove the dressing, meaning that patients can be diagnosed and treated faster.

Once the dressing has been proven to effectively detect infection in swab samples from patients, the team plans to work with healthcare company Hartmann to test the dressing for use in hospitals in around four years.