University of Bath develops ‘smart bandages’ to detect early infection

What if your bandage could tell you when you have an infection?
13th December 2016

The University of Bath has been busy in the field of smart healthcare – its talented scientists have now announced smart bandages that change colour upon the detection of infection. This step forward in medical tech will benefit the masses, helping to tackle infection before it worsens.

These bandages have a multitude of possible benefits. Chris Melvin from the University of Bath tells us, “They could be really valuable for treating burns and other nasty injuries, as well as cutting down on antibiotic use and saving the NHS money.”

“These trials are an exciting and essential step towards getting the bandages into hospitals to help treat people”

 

The bandages are currently undergoing a clinical trial in 4 UK hospitals – one being Southmead Hospital Bristol – where thorough tests are taking place to establish their effectiveness.

Testing the tech

before-and-after-smart-bandage-detects-infectionThe team working on the project at the University of Bath are keen to see how the product works in real life.

During the trials, hundreds of swabs and dressings will be taken from patients to be tested in labs where they will determine how effective the bandages were in raising flags of infection. This will also show the scientists how specifically the bandages react to the infections they are programmed to detect.

Bath Uni is teaming up with the University of Brighton, who will analyse the results. The scientists at Brighton are gathering genomic data from infection-causing bacteria, which will then contribute to improving the performance of the bandages before they are used on a regular basis nationally.

“Our bandages have great potential to improve outcomes for patients, reduce unnecessary use of antibiotics and save the NHS money”

 

The bandages (pictured above) become luminous to warn doctors that a wound has become infected, or rather is beginning to show signs of infection. This pioneering development will ultimately help to tackle the rising problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, as well as help prevent a serious infection for the patient.

Professor Toby Jenkins, who is leading the study, says, “These trials are an exciting and essential step towards getting the bandages into hospitals to help treat people, allowing us to find out exactly how well they work using real samples from patients. We hope as many people as possible agree to take part in the trial, which is completely non-invasive.”

Buying time

The team working on the project tell us the smart bandages will be most useful in helping burn wounds.

dr-amber-young-credit-university-hospitals-bristol-nhs-foundation-trustA common problem with such wounds is that they often show visible signs of infection, but rarely get truly infected, making it challenging to know how to treat the wound. This can result in two problems: the wound being left untreated until the doctor is certain of an infection, meaning by the time it is treated the infection has got increasingly severe, or a patient is given antibiotics unnecessarily.

This color-changing bandage will help eliminate both of these issues. It will improve the standard of treatment for patients, enabling a timelier response, as well as eradicate the unnecessary testing.

Toby comments, “We believe our bandages have great potential to improve outcomes for patients, reduce unnecessary use of antibiotics and save the NHS money.” If the trial proves to be successful, the bandages should be ready for manufacturing as early as next year.

You can check out the University of Bath’s website to find out about more of its exciting projects, or follow them on Twitter: @UniofBath