Breakthrough invention by Queen's scientists will detect early wound infection
SCIENTISTS at Queen's University Belfast have invented a tiny "warning" device that changes colour to show early signs of wound infection.
The 'non-invasive indicator' is the size of a dot and can be attached to a patient's bandage.
Researchers discovered it detects the beginnings of infection by sniffing the air above it.
Patients do not need to have their dressing removed, something which can inhibit the healing process, is painful and can increase infection risk. By picking up infection early, the device can also reduce the need for hospitilisation.
It is estimated that up to two per cent of people in developed countries will experience a chronic wound in their lifetime and £3.2 billion is spent each year treating the problem in the NHS.
Professor Andrew Mills from Queen's School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering has been leading the project with colleagues from the School of Pharmacy and School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
"The colour-changing indicator we have developed is just a tiny dot but it could have hugely positive benefits for our patients and health care systems worldwide," Prof Mills said.
"Usually if a patient has a wound, especially a chronic wound, a nurse or doctor will check for infection every two to three days by removing the dressing. Changing a dressing can be unnecessary, painful and an infection risk. All of this could be avoided with our indicator, saving time, money and pain."
Prof Brendan Gilmore from the School of Pharmacy added: "This sensor can provide an early warning of infection before it has progressed to a chronic, persistent colonisation of the wound by microorganisms which are by then much more difficult to treat effectively with antibiotics.
"The sensors respond quickly to the presence of infection, and allow healthcare providers to make informed decisions about managing the wound, including whether or not to use antibiotics."
The project is entering the next phase where an app will be developed so that patients will be alerted if there is an infection.