A dressing which can alert medics to infection in a wound and automatically begin treatment is being developed with the help of UK academics and burn specialists.
The dressing will be able to detect disease-causing pathogenic bacteria and release antibiotics from nanocapsules to target treatment before the infection takes hold.
When the antibiotics are released, the dressing will change colour to alert medical staff of infection in the wound. Infection can lead to toxic shock syndrome.
Bath University academics and the burns team at Southwest UK Paediatric Burns Centre at Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, will work with teams from around Europe and Australia to create the wound dressing under the €4.5 million (£3.7m) European Commission-funder Bacteriosafe project.
The dressing's nanocapsules are made primarily of lipids, the same molecules that partly make up cell membranes, Dr Toby Jenkins, project leader from Bath University, told The Engineer.
He said: "The capsules are made by extruding a suspension of the lipids and fatty acids through a nanoporous membrane and irradiating with UV (ultraviolet) light."
The photo-polymerisable fatty acids will help to strengthen the capsule and early tests indicate nanocapsules are stable enough to release the antibiotic when they come into contact with pathogenic bacteria, said Dr Jenkins.
"I think this will be an amazing product to use in burns/plastic surgery units and for those with lowered immune systems. It may well be too expensive for general use where silver dressings could be more appropriate in the primary care setting" - Julie Orr, Dumfries
"This sounds almost too good to be true, but I can see the main issue here is going to be its cost, most primary care settings only allow very basic dressings as part of their formularies. Silver and honey dressings have already been excluded leaving us with iodine as our only antimicrobial. If this works and it is proved to be cost effective maybe we can justify its use" - Paula Henderson, Hampshire