The Brazilian doctors have pioneered a new way of treating burns simply with the skin of a tropical fish. They have been testing the tilapia’s skin as a bondage for burns of 2nd and 3rd degree.
The usage of animal skin for treating burns was a well-developed method in many other countries. However, Brazil lacks such alternatives which are available in other countries.
The plastic surgeon and burn specialist, Dr. Edmar Maciel states that in Brazil, there are only three functional banks and they can only meet 1% of the national demand. For that reason, the patients are bandaged by silver sulfadiazine cream and gauze.
The interim burn director from the University of California, Dr. Jeanne Lee said that this particular cream due to the silver in it, prevents the infection of burns. But she pointed out that this cream neither debrides a burn nor heals it.
Also, this cream-and-gauze bondage must be changed regularly which is a really painful process for the patient. The patients themselves contort while their wounds are unwrapped and cleaned.
Fortunately, one completely new way of treatment with tilapia’s skin has arose. This type of fish is farmed in Brazil and its skin was previously considered trash. But the sterilized strips of tilapia’s skin stay on unlike gauze bandages.
The research was started with an analysis of the fish skin. The researchers were surprised to see the number of collagen proteins, type one and three. The tilapia’s skin has more of these proteins than the human and other skins. Maciel stated that they were also surprised to discover that the amount of resistance, moisture and tension is greater than in humans.
In cases of extreme 2nd degree burns, the doctors apply this particular fish skin onto the burn and leave it until it is scars naturally.
In the case of deep 2nd degree burns, these tilapia bandages have to be changed but far less than the gauze-and-cream bandages. Maciel said that another benefit of this treatment is that it reduces healing time and use of pain medication.
One fisherman, Antonio dos Santos was offered this tilapia treatment after he sustained burns on this right arm. These burns were results of explosion of a gas canister on his boat. He accepted without thinking.
He stated that after the tilapia skin was applied, the pain was significantly reduced. He was fascinated how something like this could work.
The researchers from the Federal University of Ceara were the first to study the initial batches of tilapia. Before packaging and refrigerating the skins, he lab technicians used different sterilizing agents and radiated the skins kill viruses. In this way, these skins can last for up to two years.
Lee said that the animal-based skin substitutes require scrutiny from the FDA and animal rights groups to increase the costs.
However, the tilapia skin is unlikely to arrive in the American hospitals very soon. But it can arrive in developing countries.
Lee points out that she is willing to use anything that can help the patient. This particular issue depends on the country you are living in. Also, you should find resources which process and sterilize the skin so that it doesn’t have diseases.
Along the clinical trials, in Brazil, researchers are conducting historical studies to compare the composition of tilapia, human, frog and pig skins. Also, they are conducting studies on the costs of conventional burn treatments and tilapia skin. If these clinical trials show progressive success, doctors will process the skins and sell it to the public health system.