For years, Horseshoe Crab has been a vital source for many pharma companies. The reason that makes these crabs essential for drug companies is their milky-blue blood that is the only known natural source of limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL). LAL carries endotoxin, a substance released by the bacteria that can be a key component for drug and sterile pharmaceuticals.
For years, the horseshoe crab blood has been an important ingredient for many vaccine companies. The creature once again hit the headlines this year as countries and companies race to find an effective vaccine for COVID-19.
However, instead of catching and using the actual horseshoe crab blood for medical procedures, several drug companies use a synthetic, recombinant Factor C (rFC). To determine the bacterial contamination of rFC in case of coronavirus patients, the world is looking forward to testing the blood of two endangered species of the horseshoe crab family.
While wildlife protectionists are pushing forward to use synthetic alternatives for the tests, including the trial ones, drug companies are trying to understand the possible pros and cons of this.
The biggest fear faced by wildlife conservationists at the moment is that without using rFC or other alternatives, the burden to create a COVID-19 vaccine will fall entirely on the horseshoe crab blood, impacting the marine ecosystems dependent on them. It also disturbs the marine food chain as many animals rely on these crabs for their food.