University of Bath researchers may have figured out a solution to a major issue in medicine. They have created a bandage that detects early stages of bacteria that glows fluorescent green before you get an infection.
Color-changing fabrics and textiles have led to some novel lines of clothing, but researchers are envisioning uses for the technology that go beyond mere aesthetics. In a recent article, Co.Design talked to London fashion label Unseen about the potential for their color-changing textiles to alert wearers about health defects. A few hours down the road, researchers at the University of Bath have been looking into something similar. They’ve just unveiled a prototype of a color-changing bandage that glows fluorescent green to warn that a wound is close to infection.
Led by biophysical chemistry professor Toby Jenkins, the research team envision a yet-to-be-named bandage being used to help burn victims stop an infection in its early stages, well before the patient gets sick. Through their work with a pediatric burn center, the group learned that burn victims—and children in particular—are often overprescribed antibiotics in an effort to prevent infection. This, in turn, leads to antibiotic-resistant strains. By detecting populations of bacteria as they develop, the color-changing dressing would allow for doctors to catch the infection before the need for antibiotics arises.
Unlike most color-changing textiles, the bandages don’t rely on outside factors like heat or moisture to work. Instead, it’s lined with an outer layer of dye-containing capsules that pop when when they come in contact with toxins in the bacteria. At a high enough population density, microbes in the form of a biofilm prompts the release of the dye, which turns fluorescent when it mixes with a gel found inside the lining of the bandage.
The research is still in its beginning phases, and the timing and level of accuracy of the bandages has yet to be proven. But the technology can accurately diagnose wound infections, it would help solve a major challenge in medicine, particularly in regards to burn wounds. And with its glow-in-the-dark capabilities, it’s perfect for kids. (As long as they don’t smush their bandages for fun.)