New "smart" bandage can filter good and bad bacteria, help slow our resistance to antibiotics

Photo via John Leach

Anti-bacterial soaps and salves have been great for keeping us healthy, but they've begun to lose their potency as bacteria becomes resistant to them. That means a tougher time recovering from illness with antibiotics. But what if we could kill just the bad bacteria, and keep the bacteria that is part of staying healthy? That's what researchers are working on as they come up with a bandage that filters through the many microbes on a wound and keeps out only those that are harmful.

Discovery News reports that this new "smart bandage" improves our current use of antibiotics - which kills both good and bad bacteria - by killing only the bacteria that causes infection. Created by researchers at the University of Bath in England, the bandage works in sync with how bacteria operate.

"Under normal circumstances, these little devils secrete toxins or enzymes that burst open a cell's membrane. Using the genetic information inside the cell, the bacteria replicates itself and seeks out other cells. But the new smart bandage is one step ahead. It contains tiny, saclike structures that mimic cells. When the bacteria secrete the toxins or enzyems to burst open the cellular wall, antibacterial agents inside are released that destroy the organism."

Image via Discovery News

Good bacteria is allowed to flourish to help heal the wound, while bad bacteria is kept at bay. But the bandage is more than just a "smart" wound protector - it can also help protect us from future strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibacterial agents.

Physorg reports, "[T]he researchers observed that, in uninfected samples that contained only non-pathogenic Escherichia coli, concentrations of the E. coli were only slightly reduced, which likely resulted from minor leakage of the vesicles. By ensuring that the antibacterial agent is released only in the presence of pathogenic bacteria, the strategy minimizes evolutionary pressure for the selection of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, prolonging the effectiveness of the antibacterial agent."

A prototype is already developed, made of nonwoven polypropylene fabricbut the researchers want to perform more testing before moving forward. "We hope to have a full working prototype, with a clear pathway to manufacturability by 2014," Jenkins said. "We envisage a further three to four years of safety and compliance testing, so 2017 is probably the earliest realistic target for coming to market."

Their research is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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