Burn victim heals thanks to fish scales

Maria Ines Candido da Silva, 36, was working as a waitress in a northeastern Brazilian town called Russas, when one day there was a sudden explosion at her workplace. A gas canister detonated, hurling her onto the floor. The fire department was there before long and she was taken to the hospital.

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She felt groggy and sick, but far worse, her arms, neck, and face were terribly burned. The pain got worse and worse and once the extent of the burns was clear, Maria was afraid she would be disfigured for life. 

But the hospital had another idea.

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A team of doctors proposed using a completely new treatment that hadn’t yet been tested on humans: applying fish scales to the burned areas to reconstruct the flesh. Specifically, they wanted to use Tilapia, which lives in Brazilian rivers and is known as a species to be highly resistant to disease. It was believed that the scales would have therapeutic qualities. 

Wikipedia

In order to prepare it for medicinal purposes, the Tilapia skin had to be cleaned and cut into four by eight inch slices. Then — and this is the crazy part — it would be frozen for TWO YEARS, before being applied to burned human skin as a plaster or bandage for a total of ten days.

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Since Maria, 50 more people have agreed to undergo fish scale therapy. While lab tests have produced very positive results, large-scale studies have yet to conclude whether this works.

Maria was so heavily burned that the fish bandages covered large parts of her body, with some of them on for twice as long as originally planned. As horrible as her trauma was, she was truly a perfect guinea pig for this new therapy. 

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She said she felt like a character in a science fiction movie when she saw herself covered in fish scales!

After three weeks, the medical team decided it was time to remove the plasters. They used petroleum jelly to ease them carefully off. Now at last they could see the outcome. And they were, to a person, stunned.

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20 days of fish scale treatment had entirely repaired Maria’s skin leaving it soft and hydrated. She was nearly overwhelmed by relief and gratitude, not just to have survived the accident at all, but to have been able to recover so well. As burn victims will know, that’s practically a miracle.

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She’s become a spokesperson for the therapy, endorsing it whenever she can: “I loved the treatment and would recommend it to anyone who has suffered like me.”

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An extraordinary combination of natural, “alternative” methods and more advanced, “conventional” medicine, the fish skin treatment is far less expensive than normal burn therapies. This video explains why fish scales, and Tilapia in particular, work so well:

Today Maria can go about her daily life without having to hide scars and burns. She went through something truly terrible but it won’t have the impact she feared on the rest of her life, thanks to this weird and wonderful treatment. 

Just think, it probably all started with some obscure scientists laboring for decades in fish skin chemistry research, and a doctor willing to try something new and “return to nature”… Let’s hope they get to keep experimenting and the technique continues to produce such fantastic results!

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