Infection is the primary cause of complications following a burn injury. 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.

Even a small hot water scald can become infected, leading to increased 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 and for patients, in terms of days off work, travel to hospital, and related loss of income.

Why develop an “infection detecting” wound dressing?

Despite the importance of identifying infection, this currently remains a major challenge for clinicians. 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 illnesses such as the common cold, a sore throat etc. Due to these challenges, the standard methods that clinicians use to diagnose infection are of limited value in treating burns patients.

The scientific principle that underpins the wound dressing concept is that: although all wounds will contain some bacteria, in a healing wound, bacterial growth will be controlled by the patients immune system. However, in a wound that becomes non-healing and pathalogically infected, the bacterial density reaches a critical concentration - a CCT (critical colonisation threshold). At this point, bacteria communicate to one another via quorum sensing and secrete cytolytic toxins including haemolytic delta toxin from S. aureus and rhamnolipids from P. aeruginosa. Such toxins damage host tissue and are therfore triggers for a wound reaching the CCT. Our dressing contains dye encapsulated nanocapsules (vesicles)  which are broken down the bacterially secreted toxins. As the nanocapsules are broken down, dye is released that is visible to the naked eye.

The Research Consortium

The University of Bath (Coordinating Partner)

    Dr Toby Jenkins, Principal Investigator
    Dr Naing Tun Thet
    Dr June Mercer-Chalmers

University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust

     Dr Amber Young

Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

     Mr Simon Booth
     Dr Baljit Dheansa

Blond McIndoe Research Foundation

Paul Hartmann AG