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Brief Published: 8 Dec 2015

Smart Bandage Predicts Infection

The bandage turns fluorescent green when levels of bacteria in a wound become toxic

A consortium of UK researchers have invented a bandage that changes colour when a wound becomes infected, according to US scientific research publisher American Chemical Society Publications. The dressing will give clinicians a way of detecting infection earlier than previously possible by turning fluorescent green in the presence of bacteria.

The bandage contains a gel-like substance of tiny capsules filled with dye, all enclosed in an outer layer that mimics a living cell membrane. Toxins are able to puncture this membrane, as they would cells in the body, releasing the dye when toxicity reaches a certain level. The dressing may be used to alert healthcare professionals to an infection before the patient shows any symptoms and help avoid the need for antibiotics, says Toby Jenkins, the professor leading the research.

Although the benefit of the bandage is yet to be proven in a clinical setting, the technology is expected to be ready for testing by 2018. The research team believes that one of the first applications could be for treating burn victims. Doctors concerned that burn injuries will become septic tend to overprescribe antibiotics, leading to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. The bandage would prevent this by reassuring clinicians when a wound is not infected.

As new forms of predictive technology continue to emerge, consumers are increasingly demanding tech solutions that can pre-empt their needs. See Wired Health 2015 for insight on how the boundary between medical and consumer products is blurring.