Professor Toby Jenkins from our Department of Chemistry has developed a game-changing wound swab that provides clinicians with confirmation of infection within just one hour. It is quick, cheap and simple to use.
The swab, SmartWound RESOLVE, is placed into a vial containing a chemical that reacts to bacteria commonly found in wounds at critical densities, turning luminous green. It provides a definitive answer on whether infection is present, minimising the need for antibiotics out of an abundance of caution.
His research began with work on a colour-changing dressing to flag up infection in burns patients, and was kickstarted by support from the James Tudor Foundation, the Annett Trust, the Frances & Augustus Newman Foundation, the Hospital Saturday Fund and alumni. These gifts in turn enabled Toby to unlock further grants from research councils.
"Donor support was hugely impactful because it paid for research nurses and PhD students, which are hard to fund on conventional research grants. With these nurses, working at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, we did a lot of the early work, such as getting wound data from burns, and we also had to test that our system didn’t react to healthy material. PhD students are the ‘foot soldiers’ of research; we can’t do without them."
In November 2021, SmartWound Limited was established as a spin-out company, for which Toby is Principal Investigator. The company is now working to scale up production of the bacteria-detecting solution and obtain regulatory approval. “We’re hoping for the product to be commercially available in late 2024 or early 2025,” he adds.
Toby is also using the same technology to develop a new rapid detection system for Group B Streptococcus in pregnant women, which will help to tackle the UK’s leading cause of neonatal infection.