Two new self-medicating bandages promise to keep serious wounds free of infection. Toby Jenkins of the University of Bath in England and colleagues are designing a dressing that releases antimicrobials from nanocapsules when bacterial toxins appear in a wound. The harmful bacteria also prompt the dressing to change color, alerting doctors to a potential infection. Jenkins believes a bandage that can spot and treat an infection faster than clinicians can will be particularly beneficial for burn victims—nearly 50 percent of all burn-related deaths result from infection. Fewer dressing changes will also reduce scarring and speed healing, he says. The team completed preliminary testing of the antibiotic release response in December and hopes to begin bandage trials on pigs within two years.
Meanwhile, cell biologist Paul Durham and his team from Missouri State University are working on a multitasking bandage layered with antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory agents for use on a variety of wounds, including deep cuts and punctures. In the initial prototype, a battery-powered time-release mechanism will dispense the medications, but ultimately the researchers hope to incorporate chemical sensors that will trigger drug release in response to changes in the wound. Durham expects to begin preliminary human testing next year.