There hasn't been another major radioactive leak, but soon we could see flesh wounds glowing in the dark. Researchers at the University of Sheffield in the U.K. have developed a gel that glows under ultraviolet light when it comes in contact with many kinds of bacteria.
The gel also appears to be effective in fighting the bacteria at the same time.
"The polymers (in the gel) incorporate a fluorescent dye and are engineered to recognize and attach to bacteria, collapsing around them as they do so," Sheffield Professor Sheila MacNeil explains in a statement. "This change in polymer shape generates a fluorescent signal that we've been able to detect using a handheld UV lamp."
Project lead Dr. Steve Rimmer adds that the technology could help reduce the overuse of antibiotics. In testing, the gel has been able to detect the presence of serious bacterias including Salmonella, E. Coli, MRSA, and meningitis.
Currently, wounds need to be swabbed and the sample sent to an advanced lab to test for the presence of bacteria, a process that can take several days. The new glowing gel could reduce that waiting time to as little as a few hours.
As with so much innovation and new research these days, the gel's developers have an eye on other possible applications.
"For example," says Dr. Rimmer, "in an antiterrorist and public health capacity, detecting pathogen release or bacterial contamination, whether accidental or deliberate."