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Life-saving 'wonder plaster' that glows when it detects deadly infections
The new plaster is designed to detect the early signs of Toxic Shock Syndrome – a potentially fatal infectionIt releases dye, only visible in UV light, from nanocapsules when disease-causing bacteria is presentCurrent methods of detecting the condition take up to 48 hours and patients often die waiting for diagnosis
14:32 GMT, 26 March 2013
14:33 GMT, 26 March 2013
British scientists have developed a new 'wonder plaster' which glows when it detects infection.
The dressing has been developed to detect the early signs of Toxic shock syndrome – an often fatal complication in young children with burn injuries.
The plaster, which was developed at the University of Bath, glows under UV light when an infection is detected within the burn, alerting healthcare professionals of the presence of disease.
The plasters glow under UV light when the infection is present – the plaster on the left of the photo is covering an infected wound while the right hand one is not
It works by releasing dye from nanocapsules triggered by the presence of disease-causing bacteria.
The nanocapsules mimic skin cells in that they only break open when toxic bacteria are present, not responding to the harmless bacteria that normally live on healthy skin.
The onset of Toxic shock syndrome can be very sudden and can turn a small burn into something potentially fatal within a few hours.
The condition is often associated
with women using tampons but can also result from an infect boil or
insect bite as well as from burns or other skin damage which allows the
bacteria to enter the bloodstream.
Current methods of detecting infection take between 24 and 48 hours to get an accurate response, during which time the patient could die as the fast-spreading infection ravages their body.
While it can detect the infection, the new plaster does not interfere with the skin's normal healing process.
Dr Amber Young, consultant paediatric
anaesthetist at the South West Paediatric Burns Centre at Frenchay
Hospital in Bristol, is the clinical consultant on the project.
She said: ‘This new dressing will
mean we will be able to detect the early signs of infection so we can
diagnose and treat the child quickly.
Dr Toby Jenkins (pictured) led the research team at the University of Bath. The new plaster does not interfere with the skin's normal healing process
‘It could make a real difference to the lives of many thousands of children.’
Tests have already been completed on skin samples in the lab and safety trials are expected to begin on humans within the next four years.
Around 5,000 children suffer relatively minor burns each year, with scalding by hot drinks topping the list of causes.
Toxic shock syndrome is a rare
bacterial infection which normally lives harmlessly on the skin but
which can invade the body’s bloodstream and release poisonous toxins.
These toxins cause a sudden high fever and a massive drop in blood pressure, resulting in dizziness and confusion. They can also cause vomiting and diarrhoea.
The toxins also damage tissue, including skin and organs, and can disturb many vital organ functions.
If it is diagnosed early and treated with antibiotics there is a good chance of recovery.
However, if left untreated, the combination of shock and organ damage will often result in death.