Doctors have found a new and innovative way of rejuvenating a severely burned skin using skin of freshwater fish.
A 36-year-old woman who had suffered severe burns has been given fish skin to reduce her injuries in pioneering new treatment. The woman who goes by the name Maria Ines Candido da Silva, 36, worked as a waitress at a restaurant in Russas, north east Brazil.
She suffered severe burns to her arms, neck and face after a gas canister at the restaurant exploded. In a pioneer treatment, doctors have now used skin of a common freshwater fish to dress her skin.
It’s believed to be the first time in medical history that scientists have used the skin of a fish as a plaster to treat wounds.
‘I was in absolute agony and desperate for anything to ease my suffering,’ Miss da Silva told The Sun.
‘I loved the treatment and would recommend it to anyone who has suffered like me.’
A team of doctors at the Dr José Frota Institute Burns Unit in Fortaleza, north east Brazil, developed the pioneering treatment. And the first trials on some 50 patients were completed this month.
They used the skin from Tilapia fish, a disease-resistant species found in Brazilian rivers. 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.
The fish skin reduces the risk of infection – and it’s cheaper to work with, experts say. It is stretched and laminated then stored in refrigerated banks based in Sao Paulo, in strips of 10cm by 20cm for up to two years.
The result is something similar to human skin and remains flexible and easy to mould around a wound. The Tilapia’s skin was left on Miss da Silva’s neck, face and left arm for 11 days before being removed.
Doctors kept the fish skin on her left hand for longer as these wounds were deeper. The fish skin grafts on her hand were replaced many times over a 20 day period to restore the damaged tissue.
Then, doctors removed the scaly skin using petroleum jelly to lift, slide and ease the dressing away from the healed area.
According to Dr Edmar Maciel, one of the plastic surgeons who developed the treatment, Tilapia skin contains ‘optimum levels of collagen type one’ and high degrees of humidity, so it takes a long time to dry out.
These are important characteristics known for healing burns and for providing patients with essential proteins. Miss da Silva was one of the first patients to be treated with the Tilapia fish skin treatment in October this year.
She said that the skin felt futuristic as if it was from a ‘sci-fi movie’.
Dr Edmar Maciel also told newsmen: ‘We discovered that Tilapia fish skin performs significantly better in the healing process by soothing and curing severe wounds caused by burns.’