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How a Cotton Swab Could Determine Your Health in the Future

How a Cotton Swab Could Determine Your Health in the Future


New research could lead to swabs that detect how healthy a wound is.

Ordinary cotton swabs, nearly every household has them in the U.S. But could they hold the key to high tech health intervention? Researchers at Joanneum Research have discovered that the pH level of a wound correlates with the healing process. When the wound is healing normally, the pH level of the wound is around a 6 or 7 (that’s balanced, for all you who snoozed through biochem). If a wound shows a level of 8 or more, the scale is tipped towards the basic end, and measures to stimulate healing need to be taken.

This development has led to speculation that indicator dyes could be used to measure the healing rate of patients, using the dyes on wound cleaning swabs to monitor when pH levels are in critical ranges. The dyes could even be included in wound dressings or even Band-Aids giving a visual indication of progress at just a glance.

Dr. Gerhard Mohr, project leader and dye chemist, has found that indicator dyes show a clear change in pH levels, and can be used to monitor wounds without contamination (green for balanced pH of 6-7, red for anything above a pH of 8). Mohr is hoping to develop the sensor swabs now.

While more research is needed, the use of indicator dyes could prove useful for evaluating patients with chronic wound problems such as the elderly, diabetics, and even those with HIV or hepatitis.

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Katie Peoples