A team of experts at the University of Bath created a specialized medical dressing which changes color when infection is detected in the wound.
To indicate the change in color, the medical dressing releases fluorescent dye from nanocapsules which are triggered by toxins from infections within the wound. These nanocapsules emulate skin cells by breaking open when bacteria are detected. Researchers said these tiny capsules are unaffected by harmless bacteria that are usually found on healthy skin.
Children with burn wounds are most susceptible to infections because of their still developing immune systems. Applying this medical dressing on these patients will help doctors immediately identify infections. Patients will be diagnosed and treated much faster, researchers said.
"It could really help to save lives," said Dr. Toby Jenkins, lead researcher of the project.
Cases of unnecessary antibiotic treatments will also be reduced, researchers said. Current methods for treating infections take up to 48 hours and require the removal of the medical dressing which is painful for patients. This could also result to life-long scarring and slower healing. As a precaution, antibiotics are then used to treat the infection.
Researchers also said that existing treatments do not help doctors determine whether an ill child might have a high temperature because of a severe bacterial burn wound infection or because of a simple cold or cough.
Dr. Brian Jones, another researcher from the university, will look into how the medical dressing responds to problematic bacteria in wounds, as well as gather samples from adult patients.
"This could in turn lead to even further advances in treating these infections," added Jones.
Meanwhile, the Medical Research Council in the United Kingdom awarded more than £1 million ($1.5 million) to the research team.
The researchers will conduct more studies to find out how effective the medical dressing is in detecting infections. Once successful, Jenkins said they will work with their industry partner to create and produce a final prototype dressing that is safe for human trial.
The University of Bath collaborated with experts from the University of Brighton and the Healing Foundation Children's Burns Research Center which is based at the Bristol Children's Hospital.