Tilapia has reigned as the 4th most popular food dish in the US for the past15 years. thanks in part to its good taste and relatively low price. The fish is also low in saturated fat, calories, carbohydrates and sodium, and a good source of protein phosphorus, niacin, selenium, vitamin B12, and potassium. Now, it seems that researchers in Brazil the have come up with an even more delectable use for the fish that promises to revolutionize the way burn patients are treated.
According, scientists at the Federal University of Ceara. tilapia skin has moisture, collagen and disease resistance at levels comparable to human skin, that serve to induce faster healing while reducing pain caused by severe burns. Not only that, using tilapia skin enables hospitals to cut medical costs, particularly where there is a shortage of human and another animal (such as a pig) skin needed for grafting. In fact, Ceara University Professor Odorico de Morais noted that the tilapia treatment cannot only “speed up healing by several days, in most cases, it can eliminate the need for pain medication.”
“The fish skin is usually thrown away, so we are using this product to convert it into something of social benefit,” he added.
Once the tilapia skin has been treated with several sterilizing agents it may be applied directly to the patient’s burned flesh and covered with a bandage, without the need of any kind of medicinal cream. It is then left there for approximately a week. At that time the bandage is removed and the dried fish skin peeled away. Since tilapia skin is high in collagen type 1, it remains moist longer than gauze and therefore doesn’t require frequent changing. In the meantime, lab technicians have found that once the tilapia skin has been treated, it can be frozen and “can last for up to two years” in storage for future use.
While China, which is currently the #1 producer of commercial tilapia in the world (1.3 million tons annually) has also conducted similar experiments using tilapia skin on mice and lab rats, Brazil is the first to conduct human trials.
In addition to existing in the wild, tilapia is easily cultivated for commercial use man-made lakes and is often farmed together with shrimp that seems to enhance the productivity of both species. In fact, cultivators in both the US and Thailand have found that tilapia also act to naturally control for the most aquatic plant including duckweed and other algae eliminating the need for heavy metal-based (toxic) chemicals used to purify drinking water in cities such as Mesa and Phoenix, Arizona. At the same time, other countries such as Kenya use tilapia to control mosquitoes that can carry malaria and other life-threatening diseases.
Note: Commercially grown tilapia is almost exclusively male. Cultivators use hormones, such as testosterone, to reverse the sex of newly spawned females.