With skin bank shortage, doctors test fish skin to treat burn victims

The fish skin acts as a buffer and allows burn wounds to heal in a sterilized setting

By EMS1 Staff

FORTALEZA, Brazil — Medical professionals are testing out a new method of treating burn victims: Using fish skin. 

Doctors in northeast Brazil have begun using the skin of tilapia to treat second- and third-degree burns as part of a trial study. Due to the country’s limited resources, fish skin has acted as a replacement for the more traditional animal skins used in burn treatment.

According to Dr. Edmar Maciel, a plastic surgeon and burn specialist leading the clinical trials, the fish skin reduces healing time and helps minimize pain. The fish skin acts as a buffer, and allows burn wounds to heal in a sterilized setting, reported StatNews

“We got a great surprise when we saw that the amount of collagen proteins, types 1and 3, which are very important for scarring, exist in large quantities in tilapia skin, even more than in human skin and other skins,” Dr. Maciel said. 

Dr. Maciel said unlike regular burn bandages, the tilapia skin does not need to be changed daily, which minimizes the painful process of changing and cleaning burn wounds. 

Antiono los Santos, a fisherman who suffered a severe burn to his right arm, said the fish skin has been helpful during treatment. “After they put on the tilapia skin, it really relieved the pain,” los Santos said. “I thought it was really interesting that something like this could work.”

The tilapia skin is heavily sterilized before being used on patients. Should the trials yield successful results, officials hope the fish skins can be used on a wider scale and be made available to the public health system. 

Can tilapia skin be used to bandage burns?

Doctors in Brazil are testing the skin of the fish tilapia as a bandage for second- and third-degree burns — a innovation that arose from an unmet need. Read the story: https://www.statnews.com/2017/03/02/brazil-tilapia-skin-burns/

Posted by STAT on Thursday, March 2, 2017


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