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Treating burns with tilapia skin

  Harald     28. november 2017     Tilapia

Approximately 15.000 people receive medical treatment for burns in Norway every year. Out of these, about 600 are admitted to hospitals with severe burns. The most common treatment for burns is to remove the damaged tissue. Skin transplants can also be an option. We’re quite privileged in Norway as we have access to resources and materials that promote fast healing. Brazilians are not as lucky; only 1% of the required skin transplants are performed annually. Thus, Dr. Edmar Maciel conducts studies where tilapia skin replaces bandages to treat severe burns [1,2].

Most hospitals in Brazil use sulfadiazine cream and bandages to treat burns due to the lack of donor skin. The cream prevents infections, but does not promote wound healing. This leads to increased scarring. These bandages have to be swapped every day and is an extremely painful procedure for the patient[2].

Tilapia skin contains large amounts of moisture and collagen proteins. This prevents scarring, promoting the healing of wounds. The fish skin is sterilized before it is placed directly on the wound. The fish skin remains on the wounds of patients with superficial burns until the wounds have healed. The tilapia bandages must be swapped a few times for patients with severe burns. The use of tilapia skin as bandages has reduced the recovery time and the use of pain killers. The fish skin is also more resistant than human donor skin, and thus better withstands mechanical stress such as stretching [2].

The use of tilapia skin bandages shows promising results. Norway and other industrial countries will most likely not need this treatment method. However, it can turn out to be essential for burn treatment in developing countries. Dr. Edmar Maciel’s aim is to produce the bandages on an industrial scale, as long as the tests continue to give positive results. He wants to sell the bandages to the public healthcare system, to assure availability for everyone [2].


1. Opdahl, Helge. (2017, 18. januar). Brannskade. I Store medisinske leksikon. Retrieved 2. November 2017 from: https://sml.snl.no/brannskade.

2. Sussman, N., 2017, Can Tilapia Skin Be Used to Bandage Burns? Scientific American[Online] From: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-tilapia- skin-be-used-to- bandage-burns/?WT.mc_id=SA_FB_HLTH_NEWS [Retrieved: 02.11.2017]

3. https://d39ziaow49lrgk.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Nile-tilapia-fish-e1463630138385.jpg?x16148

4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LOG7-2bNhQ