A newly approved shellfish toxicity test is quickly becoming music to the ears of fishery laboratory personnel, as well as the tens of thousands of mice whose lives the new test aims to save each year. The new test  has been designed to replace the current industry-standard mouse bioassay toxicity test, which involves blending up samples of shellfish and injecting the mixture into the abdomens of live mice. If the mice respond with seizures, paralysis and eventual death, the shellfish has toxins in it. Instead, the new test, called the receptor binding assay for paralytic shellfish poisoning, uses the brain tissue of one rat to test about 200 shellfish samples. That means U.S. state fishery labs testing for shellfish toxins now have a more accurate and less expensive test that could save tens of thousands of mice a year, according to Amy Clippinger, science advisor for the PETA International Science Consortium. Eight coastal state fisheries test for these paralytic shellfish toxins, which can cause a number of ailments, including facial paralysis, hypotension, vomiting and cardiovascular shock. The toxins come from algae and can be found in mussels, oysters, lobsters, crabs and even salmon, as well as other seafood species off the northern coasts of the U.S. So far, California is the only state that has agreed to switch over to the new test since it was approved by the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference, Clippinger said, but others are likely on the way. PETA sent letters to each state fishery and contractor agencies that currently use the mouse test. “The people in California are very excited and want to start using the new test right away,” Clippinger told Food Safety News. “I think the others will be interested. Fisheries have said they’ve been waiting for alternatives to the existing test.” According to Clippinger, the new test costs approximately half the price of the current mouse test and produces more reliable results in less time. The new test is based on the interaction between a radioactively labeled shellfish toxin and a rat protein. Because tests that involve radiation must have a license, PETA donated $11,500 to fund the radiation licensing necessary to implement the test nationwide and avoid passing the cost of licensing on to fisheries. The test is currently only available to completely replace the mouse test for mussel testing and for limited screenings on clams and scallops. Once fisheries amass enough screening data on clams and scallops, the test will be approved to replace the mouse test on those commodities as well. “We’re really excited to be a part of this,” Clippinger said. “It might not seem that important to people not involved, but it’s very exciting to the people who do the testing.”