After getting second-degree burns from a gas cooker explosion, Maria Ines Candido da Silva was the first burn victim to ever be treated with fish scales. Yes, fish scales!

The 36-year-old waitress suffered severe burns to her arms, neck and some of her face after a gas canister exploded at the restaurant she was working in Russas, northeast Brazil.

But doctors offered her an alternative treatment – to dress her wounds with tilapia skin instead of traditional ointments.

It is believed to be the first time in medical history that scientists have used the skin of a fish as a plaster to treat burn victims.

According to Dr. Edmar Maciel, one of the plastic surgeons who developed the treatment, Tilapia skin contains ‘optimum levels of collagen type one’ and high degrees of humidity, so it takes a long time to dry out. These are important characteristics known for healing burns and for providing patients with essential proteins.

He said, “We discovered that Tilapia fish skin performs significantly better in the healing process by soothing and curing severe wounds caused by burns.”

Stunned by the offer, Maria accepted the bizarre treatment to ease her suffering.

She said, “I was in absolute agony and desperate for anything to ease my suffering. I loved the treatment and would recommend it to anyone who has suffered like me.’

The Tilapia skins were wrapped in the burned part of her legs, arms, and face.

The fish skin sped up recovery by providing high levels of collagen and essential proteins and reduces the risk of infection.

The fish skin grafts on her hand were replaced many times over a 20 day period to restore the damaged tissue.

And these are the results after the treatment.

A team of doctors at the Dr. José Frota Institute Burns Unit in Fortaleza, northeast Brazil, developed the pioneering treatment using the skin from Tilapia fish, a disease-resistant species found in Brazilian rivers.

The researchers put the skin through a rigorous process that removes scales, muscle tissue, toxins and any possibility of transmitted diseases. They also get rid of the fishy smell. It is stretched and laminated then stored in refrigerated banks based in Sao Paulo, in strips of 10cm by 20cm for up to two years.

Source: Daily Mail, NY Post