Bionic body parts, entire face transplants and now using fish skin to heal our own – doctors are obviously superheroes.
Medical pros in Brazil have used the skin of the Tilapia fish (a popular freshwater dinner option) to treat the burn wounds of a 36-year-old woman for the first time ever.
Maria Ines Candido da Silva suffered burns to her face, arms and neck after a gas canister exploded at the restaurant she worked at.
In extreme pain, doctors offered her an alternative treatment – using the skin of the fish as a plaster. The fish is ample in Brazil, disease-resistant, and has been trialed on around fifty people in research. The skin is usually discarded so scientists thought about putting it to good use.
It’s believed the fish skin contains ‘optimum levels of collagen type one’ and reduces the risk of infection while providing human skin with essential proteins to heal.
Before the fish strips are used, researchers put the skin through a rigorous process that removes scales, muscle tissue, toxins and any possibility of transmitted diseases. It also gets rid of the fishy smell, thankfully.
It’s stretched and then laminated to store in fridges for up to two years before being used.
Doctors left the skin on Da Silva’s wounds for eleven days before unwrapping her by using petroleum jelly to lift the fish skin off of her own.
Da Silva said “I was in absolute agony and desperate for anything to ease my suffering, I loved the treatment and would recommend it to anyone who has suffered like me.”
“I felt like I was in a sci-fi-movie when the Tilapia fish skin was being put on”
“At first the fish skin felt really cold but within minutes of it being laid on, I didn’t feel any more pain and it felt cool and comforting.”
The benefit of using fish skin instead of topical treatments and bandages is that patients don’t need to suffer the pain of changing their dressings every day.
Dr Borges, plastic surgeon at São Marcos Hospital SOS Burns and Wounds Unit in Recife and coordinator of the project explained: “This new Tilapia dressing is cheap and easy to sustain unlike the expensive human skin banks that countries like ours have difficulty funding and maintaining.
“We’ve been working on this project for over two years and believe we can look forward to a time when this low-cost viable healing aid will be used to make a radical difference to thousands of burn victims in developing and poor countries, saving time, medication costs and hours of pain.”