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Scientists have developed a prototype dressing that will change colour as soon as the wound is infected. It will also help combat the global problem of antibiotic resistance by reducing the unnecessary use of antibiotics.

Children with burn wounds are particularly susceptible to bacterial infections because of their immature immune systems. Such infections can slow wound healing, leading to longer hospital stays as well as increased risk of permanent scarring. In severe cases, burn infection can lead to sepsis, which can kill.

This research was result of collaboration between the University of Bath the Healing Foundation Children’s Burns Research Centre, based at the Bristol Children’s Hospital, and the University of Brighton

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Dr Toby Jenkins, Reader in Biophysical Chemistry at Bath leading the project, explained: “Our medical dressing works by releasing fluorescent dye from nanocapsules triggered by the toxins secreted by disease-causing bacteria within the wound.

The nanocapsules mimic skin cells in that they only break open when toxic bacteria are present; they aren’t affected by the harmless bacteria that normally live on healthy skin. 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.”

He added: “Translating research from the laboratory towards the clinic is fraught with complexity, but this award will allow us to start this critical translational pathway. Working with our industry partner, the funding will be used to design, manufacture and package a final prototype dressing, safe and ready for trial in humans.”

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