Kendrapara, July 24 (LocalWire): Horseshoe crab, an endangered marine species found mostly in the coastline of Kendrapara and Balasore districts, is under the spotlight after many scientists across the world recently claimed that its blue blood has the potential to cure COVID-19.
However, scientists won’t be able to carry out research on its blood for vaccines or medicines as it is an endangered marine species under the Wildlife Protection Act.
“The blue blood of the horseshoe crab contains a substance called limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL) which clots in the presence of bacterial toxins,” said Dr. Basudev Tripathy, a noted horseshoe crab researcher and the Deputy Director of the Zoological Survey of India in Kolkata.
The species was included in Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, on 9th September 2009, for which the catching and killing of the crab is an offence under the Act.
The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) of Kolkata had last year suggested to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to declare the habitats of the endangered horseshoe crabs at Eakakula, Hukitola, Madali Agaranasi beaches and Barunei river mouth of Kendrapara district and Chandipur, Balarangadi areas of Balasore district as Eco- Sensitive Zones (ESZs) for the conservation and proper management of the endangered marine species, added Dr. Basudev Tripathy .
Tripathi said that the lysate extracted from the horseshoe crabs is effective against many diseases. Most bacterial diseases are caused by the gram-positive bacteria that carry endotoxin on their outer cell walls.
As per the present diagnostic method, it takes a long time to ensure the presence of bacteria for diagnosing bacterial diseases.
Lysate is extracted from the hemolymph of the horseshoe crab, and it clots immediately on coming in contact with the minutest possible amount of gram-positive bacterial endotoxin.
This helps pathologists and pharmaceutical industries to diagnose their test material, to ascertain if it is free from bacterial contamination, said Tripathi.
Tripathy also criticized animal rights activists who recently objected to the works of the scientists to extract blood from the horseshoe crabs to prepare vaccines.
“Most of the scientists leave the horseshoe crab in its habitat after extracting a little blood from them.
After a few days, the crab can regenerate blood for further testing. Scientists never kill the horseshoe crab while collecting its blood,” said Dr. Tripathy.
“It is high time on the part of the government to allow scientists to prepare vaccines from the blood of horseshoe crabs.
The coast of Odisha is the major habitat of the horseshoe crabs,” said Dr Anil Chatterji, a noted horseshoe crab researcher and former scientist of Biological Oceanography Division of National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa.
Under the Union Government’s “Sea Ranching Horseshoe Crabs Project 2017″ we have already started breeding juveniles artificially in the laboratories of the horseshoe crab research unit in the department of bio science and biotechnology of Fakir Mohan university in Balasore.
We also released large numbers of the baby horseshoe into the sea and estuaries last year.
The project is a venture of the Union Ministry of Science and Technology to conserve horseshoe crabs,” added Dr. Pati.