Clinical trial of infection-detecting bandages begins

A clinical trial of a smart bandage which changes colour when it detects infections is beginning using samples from burns patients from four UK hospitals.

The samples will undergo tests by scientists in the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences who will look at the activation of key genes in infection-causing bacteria to evaluate the bandages’ performance

The technology, developed at the University of Bath, has potential to detect infection earlier, allowing improved treatment for burns patients as well as reducing the use of antibiotics, helping combat the threat of drug-resistant bacteria.

The trial, at Southmead Hospital Bristol, Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and Queen Victoria Hospital East Grinstead, will use swabs and dressings taken from hundreds of patients to conduct tests to understand wound infection and dressing activation in laboratories in University of Brighton and Bath.

Dr Brian Jones, who is based in our school, and colleagues are leading on work to understand how well the dressing will respond to the bacteria causing these infections, and optimise this.

Dr Jones, Reader in Molecular and Medical Microbiology, said: “The dressing technology we are helping to develop here could be of real benefit to many patients. This could not only help clinicians provide the best possible treatment for patients with burns, but could also help us understand how wound infections begin and how they affect the normal healing process.”

Around 5,000 children and 13,000 adults a year in England and Wales are treated in hospital with serious burns. Infection is a serious complication for these patients but, at present, it is difficult for doctors to diagnose these infections, and confirmation can take several days.

Often patient’s display the signs and symptoms normally associated with infection as a result of their injuries but in many cases there is no true infection. However, tests to confirm infection typically take several days and precautionary doses of antibiotics are often prescribed. Dressings that provide a rapid and clear indication of infection directly to clinician could, therefore, be of considerable benefit to patients and the NHS, and help make treatment better and more effective.

The University of Brighton and our partner organisations, Queen Victoria Hospital and Blond McIndoe Research Foundation in East Grinstead, are playing a key role in a £1m research project which is funded by the Medical Research Council through their Biomedical Catalyst Stream, to develop these new dressings.

Dr Brian Jones, who is based in our school, and colleagues are leading on work to understand how well the dressing will respond to the bacteria causing these infections, and optimise this.

Dr Jones, Reader in Molecular and Medical Microbiology, said: “The dressing technology we are helping to develop here could be of real benefit to many patients. This could not only help clinicians provide the best possible treatment for patients with burns, but could also help us understand how wound infections begin and how they affect the normal healing process.”

Professor Toby Jenkins, who is leading the study, said: “We believe our bandages have great potential to improve outcomes for patients, reduce unnecessary use of antibiotics and save the NHS money.

“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.”

Dr Amber Young, consultant paediatric anaesthetist at Bristol Royal Children’s Hospital and the lead clinician on the trial, said: “Using patients’ samples to test the dressing’s ability to detect infection will take us closer to the use of the dressing in patients.

“Diagnosing wound infection at the bedside in patients with burns will allow targeted treatment of those with true infection; allowing earlier healing and reduced scarring as well as preventing overuse of antibiotics and unnecessary dressing removal in those patients with no infection. This will benefit both patients and the NHS.”

You’ll find more information about this and more on our research pages here. And here for more information about Dr Jones.

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