BATH, England, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Testing for infection with burn patients can be slow and increases the risk for further infection. A wound dressing that reacts to infection by changing color could help slow antibiotic resistance and help doctors better treat burn patients, especially children, said researchers.
The color-changing dressing can tell the difference between harmless bacteria which live on the skin and infectious bacteria that pose a health risk to patients, according to study on trials with a prototype, published in Applied Materials and Interfaces.
Existing methods require dressings to be removed -- a process painful for patients, which may result in slower healing and can cause long-term scars -- and tests can take up to 48 hours.
The lengthy time frame, and difficulty in distinguishing between an infection and a cold, often leads doctors to prescribe antibiotics that are not necessary.
"With current methods clinicians can't tell whether a sick child might have a raised temperature due to a serious bacterial burn wound infection, or just from a simple cough or cold," said Dr. Amber Young, clinical lead for the Healing Foundation Children's Burns Research Center at Bristol Children's Hospital, in a press release. "Being able to detect infection quickly and accurately with this wound dressing 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, and also, importantly, reduce the global threat of antibiotic resistance."
The researchers designed a wound dressing using a hydrogel containing florescent dye that is released in the presence of pathogenic biofilms.
The dressings were tested with clinical strains of Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, and Enterococcus faecalis, indicating the presence of a pathogen within about 4 hours. They were tested on a nanoporous polycarbonate membrane and using a porcine skin model of burn wound infection, finding the dressing to be responsive in both.
Next, Young said she will take samples from wounds and blisters to test the dressing's response against real samples rather than pathogens cultured in the lab before moving toward a design for human trials.
"This new dressing technology will not only help clinicians provide the best possible treatment for patients with burns, but could also tell us a lot about how wound infections begin and how they affect the normal healing process," said Dr. Brian Jones, a researcher at the University of Brighton. "This could in turn lead to even further advances in treating these infections."