Fish-Skin Dressing Shows Promise for Treating Equine Wounds

In a preliminary study from Egypt, horse wounds treated with a dressing made from the Nile tilapia fish seemed to heal more quickly.
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A new biological dressing derived from fish skin shows promise for treating equine leg wounds, which are often slow to heal, susceptible to contamination and prone to “proud flesh” (excess granulation tissue) and other complications.

Nile tilapia fish

Tilapia skin has a high collagen content and has been used to speed healing of human wounds and reduce associated pain.

To address the healing challenges of lower limb wounds, researchers at Assiut University in Egypt have been experimenting with wound dressings made using skin from the Nile tilapia fish, which is native to Africa and parts of the Middle East. Tilapia skin has a high collagen content and has been used to speed healing of human wounds and reduce associated pain.

For their study, the Egyptian researchers applied sterilized fish skin to two-centimeter diameter (just over three-quarter inch) wounds on the right cannon bones of nine donkeys. Similar wounds on each animal’s left cannon bone were covered with standard surgical gauze to serve as controls. For three weeks, the researchers examined the wounds regularly, documenting healing progress and taking bacterial cultures.

The wounds covered with fish skin had minimal bacterial activity, according to the researchers, while those in the control group showed increasing bacterial counts as the trial progressed. In addition, the treated wounds were significantly smaller than the control wounds at the end of the three-week period.

The researchers conclude that the fish-skin dressing helps keep the wound bed moist, which enhances healing by encouraging skin-cell migration across the wound surface. They call for further trials using naturally occurring equine limb wounds to determine whether these dressings are a viable treatment for such wounds.

Reference: “Evaluation of fish skin as a biological dressing for metacarpal wounds in donkeys,” BMC Veterinary Research, December 2020

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