Researchers have developed polymers that fluoresce in the presence of bacteria, potentially opening the door for rapid detection and assessment of wound infection through the use of ultraviolet light, according to a recent presentation.
The polymers, developed by researchers at the University of Sheffield, were presented at the British Science Festival.
“The polymers incorporate a fluorescent dye and are engineered to recognize and attach to bacteria, collapsing around them as they do so,” professor Sheila MacNeil, PhD, stated in a University of Sheffield press release. “This change in polymer shape generates a fluorescent signal that we’ve been able to detect using a hand-held [ultraviolet] lamp.”
According to the release, when the polymers are contained in a gel and applied to a wound, the level of fluorescence detected could alert clinicians to the severity of infection. The polymers are attached irreversibly to antibiotic fragments, which then bind to either gram negative or gram positive bacteria. This, in turn, can inform clinicians as to whether antibiotics are necessary — as well as what type of antibiotics must be prescribed.
The researchers also reportedly found they could use the same gels to remove bacteria from infected wounds in tissue engineered from human skin.
“The availability of these gels would help clinicians and wound care nurses to make rapid, informed decisions about wound management, and help reduce the overuse of antibiotics,” project lead Steve Rimmer, PhD, stated in the release.
According to the release, the researchers have already demonstrated one polymer, when modified with vancomycin and a fluorescent dye of ethium bromide, displays a clear fluorescent signal when it encounters gram negative bacteria. Other polymers have reportedly been shown to respond to Staphylococcus aureus.
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