The dangerous nature of wound infections

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Infections to wounds, such as burns, among children can often turn fatal very quickly because they can quickly develop into a condition called toxic shock syndrome, which if left untreated can be fatal in half of cases and fast diagnosis of infection in children with burns, such as those caused by scalds from hot drinks, is a big problem for clinicians.

Medical Negligence

Now researchers at University of Bath have developed a new medical dressing that 'lights up' when the burn wound becomes infected. However, the dressing which was featured on BBC science show Bang Goes the Theory, is still in a prototype stage and trials in humans are still some years away.

The dressing developed by scientists at the University of Bath uses nanocapsules containing a dye that burst open in the presence of disease-causing bacteria which causes the dressing to glow under UV light if the wound is infected, which will provide doctors with a fast diagnosis which can potentially save the lives of the victims.

"The big problem for clinicians is the fast diagnosis of infection. Current methods take between 24 and 48 hours to get an answer as to whether the wound is infected. However, our burns dressing gives a simple colour change under UV light if a pathogenic, disease-causing bacteria is present in the burn, meaning clinicians can be alerted quickly to a potential infection", Bath University's Dr Toby Jenkins said.

Whilst the dressing has been developed for use in children it also has the potential to be useful in lots of other contexts, such as the management of chronic leg ulcers.

Whilst infections in burn patients can be severe and result in toxic shock syndrome, it should be remembered that the vast majority of infections are easily diagnosed and treated by doctors with no adverse complications.

However, it is also sometimes the case that a doctor or other healthcare professional may fail to appreciate, or identify, that there is a risk of infection, either localised or systemic and wrongly conclude that no specific treatment is required which could then result in a serious condition known as sepsis.

If sepsis is not diagnosed quickly, the systemic infection may compromise bodily organs and if left untreated for a prolonged period of time, sepsis may permanently damage vital organs, including the lungs, heart, kidneys, and brain, a condition known as "septic shock".

The infection leading to sepsis may start anywhere but common sources include open wounds such as bedsores, surgical incisions or lacerations, and internal injury such as a perforated bowel or bladder often occurring during surgery. Bacteria and viruses that get into the bloodstream cause sepsis to spread. If appropriate and timely measures are not taken to prevent the development of sepsis, a patient's life may be at risk.


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