Crab's Blood: The Unlikely Bacteria Fighter
the MPR take:
The humble horseshoe crab is an unlikely source of an extract used in the limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL) contamination test, but declining population numbers are driving the development of new tests to detect bacteria on medical equipment. Amebocyte cells in the blood of the crabs are able to identify and congeal around bacteria and bacterial toxins to prevent spreading and contamination. Each year, over 600,000 horseshoe crabs are harvested so that 30% of their blood can be used for an extract that has been used with the LAL contamination test since the 1970s. The FDA requires all intravenous drugs and medical equipment to be tested with the blood extract, which can reveal gram-negative bacteria. Researchers are working on new tests using as little as 5% of the blood solution as well as electronic chip and liquid crystal sensors due to the significant reduction in the number of horseshoe crabs. It is estimated that the world’s largest population in the Delaware Bay was slashed by 75–90% in the past 15 years, making the crabs vital for now but alternatives necessary for the future.
Nearly 50 years ago, scientists discovered the horseshoe crab's clotting-response to bacterial toxins. Now, its blood is harvested in huge quantities, to be used in a test to ensure medical products are not contaminated. (CNN) -- During World War Two, soldiers learned to fear treatment as much as enemy bullets.
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