British Columbia

'Smart bandage' developed in B.C. changes colour at first signs of infection

A UVic bioengineer believes a new "smart bandage" could transform wound care and help reduce deadly infections.

Patent-pending bandage could reduce deadly infections and amputations says researcher

Bioengineer Mohsen Akbari holds the prototype bandage with infection sensors that work in conjunction with a smartphone app. (UVic Photo Services)

A wound dressing that detects the first signs of infection is more than just a Band-Aid solution for the University of Victoria researchers who developed it.

University of Victoria bioengineer Mohsen Akbari believes the "smart bandage" could transform wound care and help reduce chronic and deadly infections.

Akbari was lead investigator for a study on the "smart bandage" and associated app that was published Sept. 25 in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials.

Faster treatment means less pain

The study concluded that the combined pH-sensitive GelDerm wound dressing, which changes colour in the presence of bacteria was as effective as comparable commercially available systems for detecting bacterial infections.

Right now, the bandage begins to sterilize the wound as soon as it is applied, even if its sensors have not detected an infection.

In the future, the researchers envision a smarter system where patients can send their images of the GelDerm bandage to health care professions, indicating the start of an infection.

Then the timed release of antibiotic treatment would be initiated automatically without even removing the dressing. 

"This way we can reduce the chances of antibiotic resistance," Akbari said. 

With the app developed by the researchers to analyze and transmit the results, Akbari said infection treatment can be delivered more quickly and painlessly.

"What medical staff usually do is they remove the dressing and they take swab samples," Akbari said. "They go to the lab and it takes a few days to detect that the wound is infected."

"The entire process is pretty time-consuming and it's also pretty painful for the patient."

Chronic wounds and infections

​The article notes that health system costs of wound management are growing with challenges of an aging population and increases in obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes, 

​Where a healthy individual will usually see a wound heal on its own with little intervention, for people with diabetes, musculoskeletal conditions or compromised immune systems, wounds may heal slowly or not at all.

"This wound type can lead to serious complications such as significantly altered lifestyle, amputation and death," according to the Canadian Association of Wound Care. 

Akbari and his team are working with collaborators from Harvard Medical School and the University of British Columbia on commercializing the bacteria-detecting bandage.

He said patent-pending GelDerm is still at least five years from commercial release if an industry partner is found. It still requires clinical testing as well as U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for public use.

With files from CBC Radio One's On the Island