A study published last year highlights a new skin wound treatment that may help address antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. In the study, researchers used proteins called “tetraspanins” to make “sticky patches” on human cells—which bacteria take over to launch infection—less adhesive, enabling bacteria to be washed away easily.In the study, tetraspanins were used to prevent bacterial infections in a model of human skin. The treatment appears to be both safe and effective and does not encourage the development of resistant bacteria strains. Researchers anticipate that this intervention would be administered via topical gel or cream and could work as a dressing. They are hoping to reach clinical trial stage in about three years.

“We have developed this potential treatment with chronic skin wounds—such as ulcers in diabetics and pressure sores in the elderly and immobile—in mind. Treatments that lower the bacterial burden in infected wounds will improve the patient’s quality of life, increase rates of wound healing, and lower the chances of developing a life-threatening systemic infection,” Peter Monk, BSc, PhD, told Provider.

“It is likely to be helpful [in the elder population], in particular for long-term use in slow-healing wounds, to help overcome possible problems of toxicity or resistance emerging,” says Monk, a faculty member in the Department of Infection, Immunity, and Cardiovascular Disease at the University of Sheffield.

Moreover, “The peptides that we use are likely to be rapidly broken down by the body’s natural defenses, so topical application is unlikely to lead to any buildup of systemic peptides that could lead to toxicity,” he says. However promising, this product is still being tested in animals; Monk expects to start human trials soon.

Watch for more research in the coming years about the pathophysiology of wound formation.

“We are starting to see some research suggesting that the actual injury starts with interface deep down, with the wound forming from the inside out,” says Gary Brandeis, MD, CMD, medical director of the New Jewish Home. There likely will be more studies on this moving forward, he says, and this could change how clinicians think about wounds.