Dressing wounds can be a dirty business. Not only do emergency rooms around the world create countless tons of biohazardous waste from used bandages, but persistent wounds can become infected if tainted bandages aren't replaced in a timely manner.

Now researchers at Tel Aviv University think they may have found a clean solution. They've created fibers which release antibiotics at a controlled pace and which miraculously biodegrade — dissolving into thin air — as soon as a wound heals, or as soon as they become obsolete.

The amazing wound dressing was inspired by the way that real human skin protects the body, according to Professor Meital Zilberman, the researcher who pioneered the breakthrough fibers. "We've developed the first wound dressing that both releases antibiotic drugs and biodegrades in a controlled manner," she said. "It solves current mechanical and physical limitations in wound-dressing techniques."

While the concept may sound simple, the technology of wound dressing is actually incredibly complicated. Not only must bandages maintain a controlled level of moisture and enable fluids from the wound to leave the infected tissue at a certain rate, they must also act as a shield and prevent infection from growing.

That delicate balance is something Zilberman's new fibers seem to strike with perfection. They combine positive mechanical and physical properties with what medical researchers call "a desired release profile of antibiotics." In fact, research has already shown that after only two days, this dressing can eradicate infection-causing bacteria from serious wounds.

Hopes are high that the bandages will be particularly effective for treating burn victims, since about 70 percent of all people with severe burns die from related infections that could not be prevented with current dressing technology.

Best of all, since the bandages biodegrade instantly after the wound has healed, they leave little to no waste. That means, like most good things, that they're as good for the environment as they are for your health.

The new bandages aren't quite ready for hospital use just yet, but so far they have passed physical and mechanical tests in vitro and in bacterial inhibition tests in the laboratory. And Prof. Zilberman is currently seeking a strategic partner to develop the research so it can be taken to the commercial stage.

Bryan Nelson ( @@brynelson ) writes about everything from environmental problems here on Earth to big questions in space.

New antibiotic bandage dissolves when wound heals
Made from antibiotic-releasing fibers, the new bandage protects the wound until it is no longer needed, then simply melts away.