A recently formed interagency governmental
committee approved a new skin test for irritating chemicals that will
reduce, but not eliminate, the number of animals used for such testing.
The new test checks products to
see if they cause contact dermatitis. Currently contact dermatitis tests
use guinea pigs and cost American industry up to $1 billion annually to
perform. The new test uses mice and requires only one-third to one-half
as many animals.
The test also reduces the level
of animal suffering. In the old test, chemicals were repeatedly applied
to guinea pigs several times and researchers would then wait for the animals
to develop skin irritations. The new mice protocol calls for the
application of the chemicals, but after 6 days the mice are killed and
their lymph nodes examined for antibodies indicative of contact dermatitis.
William Stokes of the National
Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and chair of the interagency
committee that gave its approval and passed the test on to the FDA for
formal approval, said the new test combines the best of both worlds.
We think it’s a win-win situation. These new methods typically use
fewer animals, no animals or cause less pain and distress … but they
also incorporate new science and technology to provide more accurate
tests that do a better job of protecting public health.
In an odd move, even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals endorsed the new test.
“We support any new test,”
said Mary Beth Sweetland, PETA’s director of research, investigation and
rescue. “Everything is relative – using a mouse lymph node beats
blinding an animal for months. A skin sensitivity test can last for any
number of hours, weeks or months.”
“U.S. scientists endorse more human lab tests,” Maggie Fox, Reuters,
Sept. 21, 1998.