Development of an Infection Detecting Wound Dressing

Project: Research council

Project Details


Infection is the primary cause of complications following a burn injury. Even a small hot water scalds can become infected, which can lead to a great increase in pain, delayed healing, increased scarring, and a greater time in treatment (including antibiotic usage and surgery). This not only undermines the outcome for patients, but also increases costs to the NHS related to treatment, but also patients, in terms of days off work, travel to hospital, and related loss of income. In rare cases infection can lead to death, particularly in large and deep burns and even in children with small burns, via complications such as toxic shock syndrome. Despite the importance of identifying infection, this currently remains a major challenge for clinicians. Much of the difficulty arises from the fact that the symptoms of infection in burn patients can be very difficult to distinguish from other symptoms arising from inflammatory response to the burn itself, as well as other illness such as cold, sore throat etc. Because of these challenges, the standard methods that clinicians use to diagnose infection under other conditions are of limited value in treating burns patients. The situation is further complicated by the fact that most wounds have normal background level of bacteria, which does not need to be treated unless bacteria reach a certain level at which they begin to cause harm. However, clinicians may wait ~3 days to confirm the presence of bacteria in a wound, but these tests do not distinguish between beginning background levels and those representative of infection. Collectively, these limitations can also lead to patients being 'over treated', resulting in over and unnecessary prescription of antibiotics, dressing changes (which are often painful and may increase the risk of scarring), and extended hospital stay. The dressing being developed in this research programme indicates critical bacterial infection within a burn wound without the need to remove it. The dressing will signal infection by a simple colour change, that occurs when clinically relevant bacteria in the wound reach a level at which treatment is necessary. This can be used by clinicians directly at the patients bedside to provide more accurate and more effective treatment. In doing so our technology would not only improve outcomes for patients, but also reduce NHS costs and unnecessary antibiotic use.
Effective start/end date1/09/1531/08/18

Collaborative partners


  • MRC

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being


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