These gloves may look fairly normal, but the warning message on the side is made from a a silk compound which changes color once they’re exposed to bacteria such as E. coli—providing a means of spotting and avoiding exposure.

The gloves have been developed by a team from Tufts University as a proof-0f-concpet of a new type of silk compound. The team has been able to develop a way to lace molecules of the super material that is silk with enzymes, antibiotics, antibodies and nanoparticles to imbue them with new features. In this case, they’ve been doped with a compound that changes color—from blue to red—when in the presence of E. coli.

From there the team has also developed a way to print the molecules, using inkjet printing to deposit them upon a surface The result in this case is a pair of surgical gloves whose warning message shows up in red when they come into contact with the potentially dangerous bacteria. The research is published in Advanced Materials.

But, as we say, this is really a proof of concept. The team behind the research reckons it could develop a host of bio-sensors to detect other threatening bacteria and molecules, or bandages doped with drugs and antibiotics that can release them in intelligent ways. [Advanced Materials via The Engineer]