Horseshoe crabs could play role in COVID vaccine development

Could the 400-million-year-old horseshoe crab play a role in COVID-19 vaccine development? Patty Woodruff with Rutgers University's Cape Shore Laboratory says thanks to the reagent made from the blood cells of the crab that reacts to bacterial toxins, the vaccine could actually be made available sooner and be safer. 

"Their blood has a really primitive immune system and they naturally produce these amebocytes — it's just a cell that reacts to bacteria in their system," Woodruff said. 

Dr. Jim Cooper, who has been working with the animals since the 1970s, says as we get closer to a vaccine, it'd be realistic to test hundreds of millions of doses quickly and efficiently.

"Having the reagent so plentiful and already knowing how to test vaccines, we can have a lot of confidence there will be no toxic materials at least from the bacterial side in the COVID-19 vaccine," Cooper said. 

And it's not just horseshoe crabs.

Dr. Bob Bayer, the lead scientist with Lobster Unlimited, says the blood from the crustacean is an antiviral with anti-cancer properties. 

"It seems like it's something that should be tested to see whether there's efficacy against the COVID virus," he said. 

While Dr. Christine Metz with Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research hasn't heard much about the implications of lobster blood, she says horseshoe crab blood has been used in the medical world for decades. 

"This is an important component to make sure this vaccine is safe," she said. "I think the world and American public would want a safe vaccine."

After blood is extracted from the horseshoe crab, they are promptly returned to the water. 

To donate to Dr. Bob Bayer's research, see here.

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