Burns survivor treated with fish skin worlds first!


A woman who suffered second degree burns has become the first person treated with FISH SKIN on her wounds.

Maria Ines Candido da Silva, 36, survived burns to her arms, neck and face when a gas cooker canister exploded in a terrible workplace accident.

Doctors offered an alternative therapy to traditional ointments by dressing her wounds with the skin of a Tilapia fish.

The fish skin was chosen as it contains high levels of collagen type one and high degrees of humidity which help speed up healing and provide patients with essential proteins.

It also minimises the loss of liquids, plasma and protein from the injured area and drastically cuts down the risk of infection.

Before being applied, the skin is rigorous cured, decontaminated, cooled and preserved in a process that removes scales, muscle tissue, toxins and any possibility of transmitted diseases – it also gets rid of the fishy smell.


Maria Ines said the skin made her look like a sci-fi movie but has made a huge difference to her recovery.

Maria Ines, 36, who worked as a waitress in Russas, Brazil, said: “The explosion left me with horrific injuries.

“I was in absolute agony and desperate for anything to ease my suffering.

“When doctors suggested putting fish skin on my wounds I found the idea really strange.

“But I jumped at the chance because they said it would be far less painful than the normal treatment and easier to manage.”

After 11 days of treatment the majority of the dressings were removed. The fish skin was kept longer on the deeper wounds on her hands.

“It was a really bizarre experience.I felt like I was in a sci-fi-movie when the Tilapia fish skin was being put on.

“At first the fish skin felt really cold but within minutes of it being laid on, I didn’t feel any more pain and it felt cool and comforting.

“I was really surprised and grateful that it didn’t smell either.”

Maria Inês was one of the first patients to be treated in October with the procedure as part of the pilot project at the IJF Burns Unit.

Traditional treatment for burns in Brazil involves using sulphur sulphadiazine, a substance that heals wounds within 14 days, on average.


Dressings and bandages must be changed daily to keep the wounds clean and the patient has to take an anaesthetic shower using anti-bacterial soap, otherwise the wound emits an offensive odour after 24 hours.

Sufferers frequently take additional painkillers to cope with the trauma of the procedure and the stress can interfere with the healing process.

However, with this ground-breaking treatment, patients are pain free and the fish skin is reported to reduce healing by one or two days.

Maria added: “Nurses used the creams when I first arrived. I was in excruciating pain already and the wounds on my hands were really deep.

“It was like I was being tortured and the touch of the water to shower it off caused so much pain.”

The innovative biological dressing has been developed by a team of researchers led by Dr Odorico Moraes, Prof Elisabete Moraes and Dr Ana Paula Negreiros over more than two years at the Nucleus of Research and Development of Medicines (NPDM) of the Federal University of Ceará (UFC).

Plastic surgeons Dr Edmar Maciel at the Dr. José Frota Institute Burns Unit (IJF) in Fortaleza and Dr Marcelo Borges, at the São Marcos Hospital SOS Burns and Wounds Unit in Recife, north east Brazil are coordinators of the project.

Dr Maciel, who is also president of the Burns Support Institute, said: “We discovered the Tilapia fish skin performs significantly better in the healing process by soothing and curing severe wounds caused by burns.


“The skin triggers healing in roughly the same amount of time as the topical creams that we currently use in the conventional treatment.

“But the benefits of this alternative technique include reducing the trauma and pain suffered by patients because their dressing does not have to be changed daily.

“With the traditional treatment, it does.”

Tilapia, which is mass produced, was chosen because it’s one of the most common freshwater, disease-resistant fish found in Brazil.

Typically, 99 percent of the skin discarded and is now being donated for free to be used by researchers in this project.

The cured skin is stretched and stored in refrigerated banks based in Sao Paulo, in laminated strips of 10cm by 20cm and kept for up to two years.

Similar in strength to human skin, the aquatic dressing’s tensile strength remains flexible and easy to mould around a wound.

The Tilapia stays in place, covered with external bandages, from seven to 11 days before being removed.

Dr Borges explained: “This new Tilapia dressing is cheap and easy to sustain unlike the expensive human skin banks that countries like ours have difficulty funding and maintaining.

“We’ve been working on this project for over two years and believe we can look forward to a time when this low-cost viable healing aid will be used to make a radical difference to thousands of burn victims in developing and poor countries, saving time, medication costs and hours of pain.”

Next year, researchers at the Fortaleza-based IFJ Burns Unit plan to expand the trial project to hospitals across the country and treat a further 500 patients before officially launching the innovative Tilapia fish skin therapy worldwide.