Tilapia: The Fish Changing the Face of Burn Treatment

This is the tilapia fish: 

You might not have come across one before, but they’re an extremely helpful, and popular, fish. Found in various locations around the world, we farm almost 1.5M tonnes of them every year, but when it comes to tilapia, the fun doesn’t stop at the dinner table.

They’re also helpful for cleaning up bodies of water due to their penchant for eating plants like duckweed and other problematic marine plants. They basically eat the stuff that other fish won’t touch.

They’re the fish that keeps on giving. And scientists are also using tilapias to help treat burn victims.

Collagen is a protein found in the skin and other connective tissues that helps bind the skin together and gives it it’s elasticity. The properties of collagen mean that collagen dressings can be useful in treating second and third degree burns, as it stimulates new tissue growth and attracts cells to the wound, helping it to heal.



So where does the fish come in?

Doctors have traditionally taken collagen from harvesting healthy skin which can be extremely painful to help with wound care and burn treatment, but last year doctors in Brazil found that the skin of the tilapia had large amounts of collagen proteins in their skin.


They also found after testing that the fish skin had pain relief properties, and in some cases could just be left on the burned area until it began to scar.

Another benefit is cost. Due to our extensive farming of the tilapia, its skin is seen as wastage and is therefore extremely cheap – up to 75 cents less  than traditional bandages per application.



We’re not there yet, but fresh or powdered tilapia skin could become a mainstay in the burn wards and emergency departments of hospitals around the world.

Do you think the tilapia fish will change the way we treat burns? Let me know in the comments!

Charlton Morris provide Executive Search Solutions for the Medical Device, Life Science and Industrial markets. Follow them on LinkedIn here

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