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Tilapia Skin As Burn Treatment?

It’s delectable whether fried, grilled, or steamed, and it emits a fragrance unlike any other. The mere whiff of this evokes memories of Sunday lunch with the Lola, and the warm small talk and questions about when you’ll marry, or whether you already have a significant other, as typical Filipino family meal conversations can go. We’re talking about the tilapia. But do you know that it is now being explored for a different use? A medical one at that.

Tilapia skin is now being used as a method of managing skin burns in Brazil.

Tilapia skin, Brazilian doctors have found, not only speed up the healing of severely burned skin, but may also ease the pain of the burns. This not only hastens the process of recovering from burns, but also makes the healing time rather comfortable for burn patients.

This comes as good news, as the Philippines had experienced a 2.08% growth in tilapia production in the first quarter of 2017. However, there are still some downsides, as the local demand for tilapia apparently cannot meet supply, as per a 2013 report. The BFAR has been working on solutions, however, and should the Philippine medical community adapt the Brazil-born burn management method, there may be an increased need to encourage production of the tilapia.

The burn management method has more potential than the report suggests. Aside from the faster healing due to higher collagen levels in tilapia skin,  as well as the agroeconomic implications about another use for tilapia, there is another, more obvious reason to use this ingenious discovery: The use of tilapia skin may minimize the need for other, less effective methods of burn management.

Gauze bandages need to be changed often, and the process of changing deals additional pain to the patient. More than that, the sulfadiazine cream used in burn treatment costs 75% more than tilapia skin. Over and above that, sulfadiazine cream “[…] doesn’t help in terms of debriding a burn or necessarily helping it heal,” according to Dr. Jeanne Lee, interim burn director at the the regional burn center at the University of California at San Diego.

On the other hand, tilapia skin can be left on the burn victim’s affected areas until the tissue starts to scar. In trials by one of the doctors who developed the method, Dr. Edmar Maciel, it had been discovered that there were some cases which needed to have the tilapia skin changed, but overall, the frequency of changing had been significantly less than when gauze bandage is used.

Indeed, this may come as interesting news, not just to the Medical community, but also with the Agricultural and Aquaculture sectors in the Philippines.

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Photo Credits: REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

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