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How Brazilian Doctors Are Using Tilapia to Treat Burn Victims

Doctors in Brazil are using tilapia fish skin as an experimental treatment for burn victims. Traditional burn treatment includes placing frozen pig skin on burns to replenish collagen and accelerate healing. But pig skin is hard to find in Brazil, which uses gauze to treat burns. Taking gauze on and off is painful for patients and tilapia is plentiful in the South American country.

Tilapia fish skin helps with pain and is also a cost effective method of burn treatment, according to the doctors conducting the experiment. In Brazil, fish farms are becoming more prevalent to meet the rising demand for fish. According to researchers at the Federal University of Ceara, tilapia skin has similar moisture, collagen and disease resistance to human skin, which helps to accelerate healing in burn victims. Furthermore, tilapia skin speeds up the healing process by several days and is much more cost effective than silver sulfadiazine cream, which is commonly used to treat burns. The cream helps burns from becoming infected but doesn’t promote healing.

For superficial second degree burns, the tilapia skin is applied and left on until the burn heals. For more severe burns, the tilapia skin is applied and then changed, but less frequently than gauze and cream and with greater benefit as tilapia helps alleviate pain.

Eventually, the researchers hope to convince others of the benefits of tilapia skin for burn treatment so that it becomes commercially available. They also encourage fish farmers to raise fish for medical use and are hoping to partner with a company to process and treat tilapia skins for wider spread use.

In the United States, using animal skin requires careful analysis from the FDA so tilapia skin is unlikely to be used as a burn treatment anytime soon. But in developing countries that have less intense regulations and a stronger need for readily available solutions, tilapia skin looks to be a realistic solution in helping patients.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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