The Limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL), test (after the species name of the horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus) is the industry standard worldwide for pharmacopoeias for detecting bacterial toxins in the raw materials used for the production process utilized by pharmaceuticals and biotech companies for the raw and finalized medicine that lands in the market. Each and every medical drug, as well as surgical implants such as pacemakers and prosthetic devices, must be certified by the FDA using the LAL test.
Horseshoe crab blood has not only become a key weapon in our medical arsenal, it has also become big business. On the world market, a quart of horseshoe crab blood has a price tag of an estimated $60,000, leading to overall revenues from the LAL industry estimated in the U.S. at $50 million per year. That pales in comparison to its value to the pharmaceutical industry in total.
According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, that $50 million dollar industry requires the blood of approximately 250,000 horseshoe crabs. Every person who has ever had an injection is dependent on the harvesting, and use, of the baby blue blood of the horseshoe crab.
For more information about the harvesting of the horseshoe crab’s blood and biomedical technology, please read “The Blood Harvest” by Alexis C. Madrigal for The Atlantic.