Researchers Develop New Dressing Using Electricity to Heal Burns and Wound Infections

“This shows for the first time that bacterial biofilm can be disrupted by using an electroceutical dressing,” said Chandan Sen.


In what could be an electrifying discovery, researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine have found a new way of treating bacterial infections by using electricity.

Chandan Sen and Sashwati Roy, who worked in the laboratories of the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering, have developed a dressing bandage using an electric field to disrupt biofilm infection.

The findings of their work were published in the journal Annals of Surgery.

Bacterial biofilms form on some wounds, such as burns or post-surgical infections, and after a medical device is placed in the body. These bacteria are known to generate their own electricity with the help of their own electric fields to communicate and form the biofilm, making them difficult to treat. According to the CDC estimate, pathogenic bacteria with this biofilm phenotype cause 65 percent of all infections, while the NIH estimates that it is close to 80 percent.

Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine are the first to look at the practice of using the electricity-based dressing to treat biofilms instead of antibacterial drugs. They found the bandage is effective at fighting the bacteria on its own, and if combined with other medications, it can make them even more effective.

This groundbreaking discovery can significantly change the way doctors treat their patients with bacterial infections, especially those who are resistant to antibiotics. The researchers said that the dressing could also help prevent the formation of the new biofilm infections in the future.

The electric-field dressing is known to self-generates at least 1 volt of electricity when it comes in contact with the body fluids, such as blood or wound fluid or blood, which is negligible and does not hurt or electrocute the patient.

Chandan Sen said, “This shows for the first time that bacterial biofilm can be disrupted by using an electroceutical dressing. This has implications across surgery as biofilm presence can lead to many complications in successful surgical outcomes. Such textile may be considered for serving as hospital fabric – a major source of hospital-acquired infections.”

Recently, the FDA approved the marketing of the dressing for burns. The researchers will not study the efficacy of the electric field-based dressing in patients who are recovering from burns.