University of Michigan scientists say that using nanoemulsion lotion for treating second-degree burns sharply curbs bacterial growth, and reduces inflammation that could delay recovery.
U-M burn surgeon Dr. Mark R. Hemmila said that the nanoemulsion developed by them shows promise in overcoming the limitations of current creams used in burn treatment, which could not penetrate skin to kill sub-surface bacteria and don't have a strong effect on inflammation.
In a collaborative effort, the researchers showed that nanoemulsion lotion could reduce bacterial growth one-thousand-fold compared to control animals receiving no treatment or a placebo.
The nanoemulsion showed a similar reduction when compared to a topical antimicrobial agent commonly used in people with burns.
The nanoemulsion is made of soybean oil, alcohol, water and detergents emulsified into droplets less than 400 nanometers in diameter.
It has proved effective at killing a variety of bacteria, fungi and viruses in previous research.
The scientists used the nanoemulsion to treat partial thickness burns, better known as second degree burns, over 20 percent of the body, to test its effectiveness in the type of injuries doctors see in people brought to tertiary hospital trauma and burn centers.
Such burn victims typically require aggressive treatment in intensive care both to rein in infection and to try to prevent vital fluids from leaking from blood vessels into the damaged skin, a dangerous situation caused in part by excessive inflammation within the body.
Apparently, the nanoemulsion reduces the action of two inflammatory agents or cytokines that play a role in cell signaling during this critical post-burn period.
Slowing this action may prevent initial burn damage from becoming worse, and thus reduce the severity of the burn and extent of skin grafting needed, said Hemmila.
Nanoemulsions could also be used for treatments for cold sores, now in phase 3 clinical trials, and for toenail fungus and cystic fibrosis infections, as well as vaccines against influenza and bioterrorism agents.
The study was presented at the Interscience Conference for Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.