Burn care has made strong progress in recent decades, with improved survival and quality of treatment. However, there are many challenges that overshadow the successes, including inflammation, infection, wound coverage and grafting. Treatment can also be both expensive and painful.

However, a new approach promises to make life easier for burn patients, and make use of a readily available resource in an innovative way.

A natural approach

Doctors at the José Frota Institute in Brazil have been treating second- and third-degree burns in clinical trials. Instead of treating patients with antibiotics, burn creams and dressings, the doctors are wrapping tilapia skin around the site of injury.

Tilapia skin is very resilient, and contains collagen proteins and lots of moisture – all factors that help with burn treatment.

Unlike standard gauzes, the fish skins do not need to be removed at all for milder burns, and are changed far less frequently for severe ones. This has been shown to be an important factor, as changing the dressings can be a very painful process.

A recipe for success?

The new treatment reduces the risk of infection and provides a cheaper alternative to treating burn wounds.  

Initial patient trials have found that wound healing time was significantly reduced, and patients reported considerably less pain. Investigations are now being carried out into both the costs in comparison with traditional treatments, and the viability of rolling this out on a large scale to the public healthcare system in Brazil.