FIGCS: An in vitro model to replace ecotoxicity testing of fish to pharmaceuticals

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Nutritional Sciences


Toxicity testing to ensure that human and veterinary medicines are safe to the environment stipulates the use of toxicity tests where the concentrations of the medicine required to kill fish from exposure via the water is established. There are currently no methods offered as alternative that avoid toxicity testing on animals. We have in previous research developed a fish gill cell culture system (FIGCS), which we have shown accurately predicts toxicity of metals to fish. We now propose to adapt FIGCS to replace fish toxicity tests for assessment of safety of medicines to the environment.

Technical Summary

Registration of all human and veterinary drugs require establishment of safety to the environment, which includes toxicity testing to fish normally with lethality as end-point. Using existing OECD guidelines, a minimum of 42 fish are typically used in a single acute toxicity test and where safety to the environment cannot be established, the test is either repeated on additional species or followed by chronic studies, which again often include lethality as end-point.

We have established a Fish In vitro Gill Cell System (FIGCS), which allows cells to be exposed to chemicals in test water, thus, maintaining a realistic exposure scenario. FIGCS has been demonstrated to accurately predict toxicity of metals in test water, by measurements of molecular and physiological end-points relevant to known modes of toxicity. In the proposed project we will extend the scoop of this system to an important group of environment contaminants, namely pharmaceuticals.


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