Human amnion as a temporary biological wound dressing has remained a beneficial and cost-effective means of treating burns in developing countries. The aim of this study was to determine whether human amnion that has undergone long-term preservation in glycerol is an effective biological dressing compared to fresh amnion and glycerol-preserved human skin. Samples of human amnion and skin were preserved in sterile containers of 85% glycerol at 4 degrees C for over a year. Dorsal full-thickness or split-thickness skin wounds were produced in rats. The defects were divided into four areas, each of which was covered with preserved amnion, fresh amnion, preserved skin, or left uncovered as a control. The materials on the wounds were evaluated macroscopically and microscopically after 2, 4, 7, 10 and 14 days. The primary take or adherence of the grafts on full-thickness wounds was evaluated at 4 and 7 days, and material performance was scored based on several macroscopic and microscopic criteria. The bacteria levels reducing effect of the materials were examined by quantitative bacteriology in heavily infected full-thickness scald burn wounds of rats. Qualitative cultures confirmed that the storage conditions the materials were subjected to for over a year were aseptic and that the amnion and skin had maintained their characteristic properties. All materials were found effective on partial-thickness rat wounds as a cover under which re-epithelialization was completed by 7 days. The preserved skin performed better than either preserved or fresh amnion on full-thickness wounds but the performance of preserved amnion was comparable to that of fresh amnion. Glycerol-preserved amnion was found to be as effective as fresh amnion or skin in terms of decreasing bacterial levels in infected rat burn wounds. Amnion stored in glycerol is reliable and effective for a long period of time. Amnion banking could provide an unlimited quantity of biologic dressing for burn treatment at low cost, a factor that is particularly important in developing countries.