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Future Burn Care or Fish Tale?

A five-month old mountain lion with second and third degree burns on all four paw pads from the #ThomasFire that burned through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties is being treated with a “bandage” first tried in Brazil: fish skin.

It’s an experimental treatment for animal burns, and it’s something that might be tried on humans soon. Dr. Jamie Peyton decided to try the Brazilian experiment.

ABC News Health. Photo:  UC Davis

“It’s unlikely to be predominant in the U.S.,” said Peyton. “We have a lot of banks of human donor grafts.”

Dr. Peter Grossman, medical director of the Grossman Burn Centers, agrees, and said that skepticism about any new treatment is important.

“Sometimes it can be a pretty big fish tale,” he joked, but explained, “It’s not a replacement for skin graft, but it could be a good tool.”

Grossman notes that human skin given by donors and pig skins are the more established treatments in the U.S., which makes the idea of putting fish skin onto people hard to envision.

There are a lot of new biological treatments that are FDA-approved and made from mammals, unlike the fish skin, in the U.S., Grossman said.

“I still think it is going to take some time before it is socially accepted even in animals,” said Grossman of tilapia bandages. But “sometimes simpler can be better, so we have to keep an open mind,” he said, despite the wider options of skin grafts available in the U.S.

Given the studies’ results, Grossman added that “it’s not a bad idea” for partial thickness wounds, which are wounds where some of the tissue and nerve-endings are still intact.

For more severe, third degree burns, however, tilapia bandages wouldn’t be as effective in his opinion.

“I think it has significant benefit globally,” said Grossman. “Throughout the world, burn injuries are among the leading causes of death because they don’t have the ability to treat like we do.”

It is tough and expensive to have a treatment approved by the FDA, Grossman said. FULL STORY

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