Improving the lives of burns victims with intelligent wound dressings
In the UK, around 1,100 children each year require treatment for burn injuries. Dr Toby Jenkins, Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry, is leading research into wound dressings which can reduce scarring and potentially save the lives of young burns victims.
Diagnosing infection – a real problem
When treating children with burns, it’s often difficult to determine whether their wound is infected. For around 5% of children, an infection can lead to toxic shock syndrome. A quick diagnosis is essential, as if the infection is not treated early around 50% of sufferers will die.
Using current testing methods, test results can take up to 48 hours. Children are therefore often treated with antibiotics from the outset as a preventative measure. The treatment is not only unpleasant, but prolonged use can cause kidney problems.
What are intelligent wound dressings?
Since early 2010, researchers from the Department of Chemistry have been working in conjunction with the South West Pediatrics Burns Centre to develop intelligent wound dressings, which quickly detect and treat infections in burns.
Within only four hours of application, if an infection is detected, the dressing releases a coloured dye. The dressing then treats the infection by releasing an antimicrobial solution onto the wound.
Making a real difference to children with burns
The dressing’s ability to quickly detect infection can:
- prevent unnecessary treatment
- reduce treatment cost
- reduce the length of hospital stay for a child without infection
- prevent scarring as dressings are not removed unnecessarily during the early stages of the healing process, only when an infection exists.
How the dressing works
The dressing contains tiny vesicles, which behave in the same way as human cells. When toxins and bacteria interact with the membrane of the vesicle, infected bacteria will eat the membrane of the vesicle. This causes the release of a coloured dye and an antimicrobial solution to treat the wound.
Researchers successfully tested the dressing’s response to a number of bacteria including MRSA, achieving an incredible 96% success rate.
The future of the project
Toby and his team are working hard to progress their product to a commercial release. In 2012, they hope to continue testing and make a submission to the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Finally, the product will undergo clinical testing with hopes for a pilot test with children in 2014.