Acetic Acid Found to Be Effective for Treating Burn Wounds

Treating Burn WoundsBurns are a common traumatic injury that requires proper wound care as early as possible. Due to the absence of normal skin barrier, burn wounds are prone to being infected. Local infection to burns and subsequent sepsis (blood poisoning) are significant concerns for patients, especially when sepsis is a leading cause of death among those with burn wounds. It is quite difficult to treat infections of burn wounds since traditional antibiotics won’t reach the wound effectively and infecting organisms are highly antibiotic resistant. In a recent study published in PLOS ONE journal, highly diluted acetic acid (an active ingredient in household vinegar) has been found to be effective in preventing infection and killing bacteria in burn wounds.

In this study, the researchers from the University of Birmingham and the National Institute for Health Research Surgical Reconstruction and the Microbiology Research Centre (NIHR SRMRC) examined the antibacterial activity of acetic acid against key burn wound colonizing organisms, that are growing planktonically and as biofilms. As per the researchers, the main way in which bacteria cause wound infection is via biofilms. The bacteria form a community in a biofilm instead of living as single cells and form a slimy layer on the wound. Around eight percent of infections results from biofilms that are more resistant to antibiotics since they have safety in numbers and slower metabolic rates. During the study, the ability of highly diluted acetic acid to prevent biofilm formation and eliminate pre-formed biofilms was tested on each isolate. Two major findings were:

  • Low concentrations of acetic acid (0.16-0.3%) were able to restrain the growth of pathogens, prevent them from forming biofilms and eliminate mature biofilms for all isolates after three hours of exposure.
  • Lower concentration of acetic acid was effective against all types of pathogens.

Upon these findings, the research team concluded that lower concentrations of acetic acid can be used as alternatives to topical microbials and traditional antimicrobial dressings in order to prevent bacterial colonization of burns. Now, the team is designing clinical trials using acetic acid in which plain dressings soaked in acetic acid are tested against common silver-based dressing. A study will be conducted further to test the effectiveness of two different concentrations of acetic acid on patients.

The major reason for the limitations to the current use of acetic acid in clinical settings is the concern regarding patient tolerability. The significant finding of this study regarding the effectiveness of lower concentrations of acetic acid opens new possibilities for burn wound treatment. However, more research is required to find out the best way in which acetic acid can be used to treat and prevent bacterial infection. It is also very important to study how bacteria adapt or evolve over time to exposure to acid to design treatment regimens that minimize the emergence of resistance.

Even though lower concentrations of acetic acid are found to be effective for burns in this study, the research teams firmly say that the patients should not self-apply vinegar in the case of a burn. They should go to the hospital and acetic acid treatment may be required when their wound infection pose a problem.

To document wound details and treatments provided effectively, wound EMR is a good option. Wound-specific electronic medical records help wound care physicians to thoroughly evaluate the wounds with the help of specific details from wound assessment records within this EMR and decide whether acetic acid treatment would be effective for the patient.