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Processed Tilapia Skin Could Be Used to Bandage Burns

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 03 May 2017
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Image: Fish skins could soon serve as burn dressings (Photo courtesy of Caters News Agency).
Image: Fish skins could soon serve as burn dressings (Photo courtesy of Caters News Agency).
The skin of the humble Tilapia cichlid fish can be used as an occlusive biological dressing for skin injuries, such as burn and acute or chronic wounds, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Federal University of Ceará and José Frota Institute are conducting clinical trials of Tilapia skin as a bandage in the superficial treatment of cutaneous lesions, such as second- and third-degree burns and chronic crevices. According to the researchers, the skin of the Tilapia fish promotes the acceleration of the healing and repair processes of the dermal matrix by adhering to the wound, avoiding retention of exudates and loss of fluids, and by promoting a barrier to bacterial invasion.

Prior to use, the fish skins are processed in glycerol in concentrations of up to 99%, under clean room environments. In certain cases, when microbial count is high, supplementary sterilization with gamma radiation is also applied. The processed skin is then cut into sterilized strips that can be stored for up to two years. The tilapia bandages are changed a few times over several weeks of treatment, though much less often than the current standard in Brazil of gauze and silver sulfadiazine cream. The fish skins, which are removed using petroleum jelly, also cut healing time by several days, and also reduce the use of pain medication.

“We got a great surprise when we saw that the amount of collagen proteins, types 1 and 3, which are very important for scarring, exist in large quantities in tilapia skin, even more than in human skin and other skins,” said lead researchers plastic surgeon Edmar Maciel, MD, of José Frota Institute. “Another factor we discovered is that the amount of tension, of resistance in tilapia skin is much greater than in human skin; also the amount of moisture.”

Animal skin has long been used in the treatment of burns in developed countries. But Brazil lacks the human skin, pig skin, and artificial alternatives that are widely available in other countries, and the three functional skin banks in the country can meet only one percent of the national demand. Investigations are now being carried out into the viability and cost of Tilapia in comparison with traditional treatments, as the fish is widely farmed in Brazil and often the skin is considered trash.


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