Researchers from the University of Sheffield have developed a gel which contains polymers that light up in the presence of bacteria. The polymers are bound to an antibiotic and a fluorescent dye. They are engineered to recognize and attach to bacteria. When the polymer attaches to bacteria, it changes shape and generates a fluorescent signal which can be detected using a UV light.
If the gel is applied to a wound, the level of fluorescence could inform clinicians about the presence of bacterial wound colonization. The technology could help in making rapid assessments in wound management and provide more accurate antibiotic treatment, particularly in high risk areas like military medicine or burns. Normally it takes several days to determine the severity of the infection by culturing swabs. The researchers are convinced that their method can reduce the time of detection to within a few hours.
The polymers can be attached to antibiotics, which can bind to either gram negative or gram positive bacteria. The researchers have already demonstrated an engineered polymer, bound to vancomycin and a fluorescent dye, which shows a fluorescent signal when attached to gram negative bacteria. The team is already exploring other polymers which show promise for other bacteria. They hope to start clinical testing within two to three years.
Full statement from University of Sheffield: Sheffield experts shine a light on the detection of bacterial infection