Can Fish Skin Be Used To Bandage Burns? Here’s The Answer

1926
tilapia chitralada
Alberto Nunes

Since humans learned how to manage and control fire, our life and evolution changed for the better. But when something goes wrong the situation may become really bad any time we get burned.

Burns are one of the most common household injuries, especially among children. The term “burn” means more than the burning sensation associated with this injury. Burns are characterised by severe skin damage that causes the affected skin cells to die.

Most people can recover without serious consequences, while serious burns require immediate emergency medical care.
(source: Healthline Media)

Depending on the burn levels (from first to third) the remedies can vary. On this article we will talk about an innovative bandage for second and third-degree burns that doctors in Brazil are testing: the skin of the tilapia fish. In addition, the following video will show you this innovation applied on the real patient.

We are in Fortaleza, Brazil and Josué Bezerra Jr., an electrical supervisor, recently suffered burns on the job. Doctors wrapped his arm in an unusual bandage: sterilized fish skin.

tilapia still

“I thought it was weird. Man, I look like a mutant” the patient declared.

Then he added: “Even though I thought it was weird, the fact that he said it would take less time [to heal] and with less pain, I said, I’m up for anything, use whatever you want.”

On the video we can hear the doctors asking the patient if it hurt and he clearly replies “no”.

“The tilapia skin adheres to the wound and creates what we call a buffer effect” the doctor declared.
According to his statement, the fish skin blocks outside contamination, it prevents the loss of moisture and proteins from the wound, and it stays bonded to the bed of the wound until it heals over. It’s the first aquatic animal skin in the world to be tested in burn patients.

We anticipated that at the beginning, the treatment is now in clinical trials. So far they have 52 patients in the study, and none have presented complications.

What’s the difference from the traditional bandaging?

josue fish bandage burns
Youtube

The usual remedies needs to be changed daily, often causing pain and discomfort for the patient. But in superficial second-degree burns, they apply the skin and there’s no need to change it any more, until the end of the treatment (which takes nine to 11 days on average). Therefore, you don’t have to take it off every single day.

Where is this happening?

Tests are taking place in North-East Brazil, a region without a working skin bank.

“The first night with the tilapia skin, it was as if my body wouldn’t accept it. My arm started burning like it was on fire, but they said it was normal and afterwards it was fine”, the patient referred during the interview.

The amazing thing, according to Josué Bezerra Jr’s declaration, was that he didn’t take any antibiotics or pain medication. After 13 days it was already scarring over. The tilapia skin dried and started to come off. So they removed the first pieces.

This innovative remedy could be a great resource because tilapia skins are plentiful in Brazil and fish farms normally throw them away. Of course additional treatments are required to make the skin into a sterile and odourless medical dressing:

  1. sterilization in chlorhexidine (antiseptic) and then in glycerol in various concentrations;
  2. complementary radio sterilization (only way against viruses).

If you are afraid this innovation will be harmful to pockets and the planet, you should know that, according to the researchers, the skins are cost-effective and environmentally beneficial. They hope it will enter the national health system after more testing.

You can read the full story here. In the meantime, watch this video and discover how the skin looks like and how this new treatment works.

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