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Zoo's new bloodthirsty helpers?

Zookeepers in England are using blood-sucking insects to collect blood samples from zoo animals, according to the linkurl:BBC.;http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/7425073.stm The bugs may allow routine health checks without the use of anesthetics. Rather than needles and linkurl:syringes,;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/19281/ veterinary officers at the London and Whipsnade Zoos are taking advantage of the voracious appetite of South American linkurl:kissing bugs;http

By | May 29, 2008

Zookeepers in England are using blood-sucking insects to collect blood samples from zoo animals, according to the linkurl:BBC.;http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/7425073.stm The bugs may allow routine health checks without the use of anesthetics. Rather than needles and linkurl:syringes,;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/19281/ veterinary officers at the London and Whipsnade Zoos are taking advantage of the voracious appetite of South American linkurl:kissing bugs;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triatominae (__Dipetalogaster maxima__). The bugs bite through the animals' skin, releasing pain-reducing substances as they draw blood for 10-30 minutes. "The process is non-invasive and painless for the animal," linkurl:Tim Bouts;http://www.zsl.org/science/veterinary-department/tim-bouts-veterinary-officer-whipsnade,534,AR.html of the Zoological Society of London told the BBC. It's not an entirely painless process for the bug, however. The insects are then killed to extract the blood for testing. Andre Stadler developed the technique at the Wuppertal Zoo in Germany, where he is now breeding the bugs for export abroad. So far, the insects have taken blood samples from 32 species of zoo animal in Germany, and from a giraffe, cheetah, hippo, linkurl:elephant,;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/home/53568/ and white rhino in London. Zookeepers in Dublin have also reportedly tried the technique on a pregnant elephant, according to the Dublin Zoo's linkurl:website.;http://www.dublinzoo.ie/news/kiss-of-life.asp The technique could also prove useful for smaller animals in which veins are harder to find.
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