Good on the Inside and Outside of You
In Matthew 4:18–21, we read where Peter was working on the Sea of Galilee (Lake of Gennesaret)1 with his fishing business partners when Jesus called him for the Gospel. Also, James and John were mending their fishing nets. After the Resurrection of Jesus and before the blessing of the Holy Spirit, the disciples commenced fishing again. Jesus appeared to them and they ate fish together (John 21:10–14). What was this fish that was so popular that they could make a business from catching?
Post-Fall food source
Those were probably tilapia, a variety of the cichlid created kind corresponding to the family Cichlidae. Tilapia were one of the three main types of commercial fish caught in the Sea of Galilee, and one is known as the ‘Galilean Comb’ or ‘St Peter’s fish’ (or mango tilapia, Sarotherodon galilaeus).
Tilapia have many names and are found in numerous places. They are whitefish with a mild taste, are plentiful and nutritious,2 and grow quickly in the right environment. Because of these and other reasons, farming tilapia is increasing.3 After the Fall, God provided us with food that was popular in Bible times and is an important resource today.
Good on the Outside of You
In a medical television program, a burn victim was brought into the hospital.4 Various treatments were discussed, but the prognosis of severe scarring was bleak. However, one of the doctors mentioned tilapia research he had heard about. This episode was similar to actual events where Maria Ines Candido da Silva, a waitress in the northeast Brazil city of Russas, received severe burns when a gas cooker exploded.
How are severe burns usually treated? The healing protein collagen is usually transferred to the victim’s skin from human (sometimes using grafts from the patient’s own skin, and sometimes from pig tissues). Unfortunately, the necessary materials are not always readily available.
Researchers at the José Frota Institute in Brazil needed alternative sources for the necessary proteins, so they studied tilapia skins.5 These act like a bandage that attaches to the skin, holding the collagen proteins to the wound.
When told that the experimental treatment should be less painful, Maria decided to try the new procedure. The results were amazing.6
Not Just for People
After the Thomas Fire in southern California, veterinarians took action to treat two bears and a young cougar. Have you ever dealt with an injured animal? The pet dog or cat, for example, often forgets that bond it has with its owner because of the pain and it may get very defensive despite the carer’s good intentions. It probably has to be wrapped in a blanket so you can rush it to the animal hospital. Big animals are not candidates for being wrapped up, so they must be sedated for treatment.
Unfortunately, they cannot withstand frequent sedation. The vets knew about the effective treatment in Brazil and wanted to try it on the animals. But how could they get those fish skins, since trade restrictions interfered? They bought fresh tilapia at the local fish market, skinned them (ate the good stuff), and set up the treatment.7 The results were better than expected.8 As someone who gets upset about animal suffering, I was thrilled by these reports. After all, Christians are stewards of God’s creation and should allay the pain of animals when we can.
Provisions of our Creator
God has provided us with many things in nature for food, clothing, medicines, and more. He also gave us minds to use, such as when people are inspired to copy nature through biomimetics. We see how a common fish that was eaten in Galilee can also provide healing benefits that were not realized for many years. The possibilities for treatment of severe burns are encouraging, and further clinical trials are likely. We must thank and praise God for the many provisions given to us, even in this fallen world.
References and notes
- The Sea of Galilee has several names in the Bible and elsewhere (Hebrew yam Kinneret יָם כִּנֶּרֶת,) Although it has Sea in its name, it is actually a freshwater lake, the lowest on Earth, and the second lowest lake after the ultra-salty Dead Sea. Return to text.
- Seafood Health Facts, seafoodhealthfacts.org, accessed 9 Nov 2018. Return to text.
- Tilapia Fish Farming, roysfarm.com, accessed 9 Nov 2018. Return to text.
- The Good Doctor, “Not Fake”, season 1 episode 6, 30 Oct 2017. Return to text.
- Ramsey, L., Doctors are trying an unorthodox approach to treat burn victims—using fish, businessinsider.com, 27 May 2017. Return to text.
- Coelho, J.T., Burns victim injured in horrific explosion has FISH SKIN wrapped over her wounds in pioneering new treatment, thesun.ie, 14 Dec 2016. Return to text.
- Zachos, E., Fish Skin Bandages Help Burned Bears and Cougar Heal, news.nationalgeographic.com, 25 Jan 2018. Return to text.
- Tilapia-skin bandages heal burns on black bears caught in California's Thomas Fire, Peter O'Dowd learns more from Jamie Peyton, wbur.org, accessed 3 Nov 2018. Return to text.