A novel compression dressing made from an antibacterial substance formed from the shells of crustaceans may prevent infections in wounds.

The product is described in the May issue of Radiation Physics and Chemistry. It builds on hydrogel dressings, which speed healing with moisture, to help patients ward off antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

Scientists at Lodz University of Technology in Poland incorporated the chitosan, extracted from shellfish like shrimp, into such dressings. 

The extraction process involves isolating a substance called chitin that is found in the shells and then changing its structure by removing most chemical branches from its acetyl groups, then purifying the resulting chitosan.

Using irradiation, the polymers are linked to form a firm and durable structure and sterilize it in a single step.

“Since wound healing in severe cases may take a long time — up to several weeks — the probability of bacteria-mediated infection is high,” says lead author Radoslaw Wach, Ph.D.,  of Lodz University of Technology. “Our novel hydrogel dressing could, therefore, prevent many such infections and avoid serious complications.”