The human body has a natural block to keep out bacteria that would cause infections: skin. But when the skin gets burned, it’s not only painful, it’s bad for the body. Burned skin cannot keep the bacteria out, so infections are common. That’s why doctors who treat burn victims have to look out for the slightest sign of dangerous infection.
Doctors often wrap burns in bandages for protection, but a recent study shows that a new kind of bandage can actually fight infection. Better yet, this new bandage can use the harmful bacteria against themselves — in other words, the infection-causing organisms cause their own deaths.
Toby Jenkins, a scientist at the University of Bath in England, worked on the study. Jenkins and his colleagues developed a material that contains tiny capsules. But these carefully designed packets aren’t what they seem: To a bacterium, these capsules look like cells just waiting to be invaded. What the little invaders don’t know, however, is that the capsules contain antibiotics, which are chemical compounds that can kill bacteria on contact.
The bacteria attack the cells by releasing toxins, or poisons. But when the bacteria attack the capsules, the capsules fight back — by releasing antibiotics that knock out any nearby bacteria.
Full story: Bandages That Could Bite Back