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How Color-Changing Bandages Could Tackle One of the Biggest Threats to Global Health

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Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health. 

Researchers in China hope to help tackle the threat with new color-changing bandages that can indicate infected wounds and dispense medication based on the type of bacteria present.

The bandage changes from green to yellow when it comes in contact with the acidic environment of a bacterial infection, according to research published Wednesday by the American Chemical Society. It then releases an antibiotic to kill the bacteria.

But if the bacteria in the wound is drug-resistant, the bandage senses certain enzymes and turns red in response. In that case, shining a light on the bandage releases reactive species that weaken or kill the bacteria and make it more susceptible to the antibiotic. 

bandage changing color to show presence of bacteria

A bandage changed color from green to yellow, and from green to red, in the presence of increasing concentrations of drug-sensitive (DS) and drug-resistant (DR) E.coli, respectively. Adapted from ACS Central Science 2020

The team of researchers led by Xiagang Qu showed that the bandages could speed healing of wounds in mice infected with drug-sensitive and drug-resistant E. coli. The selective response could help reduce antibiotic resistance and is more cost-effective than other approaches, the researchers say. 

The study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Key Research Program of Frontier Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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