A South African Clawed Frog
The other night I had a patient in her mid 70's who had been a lab technician in a hospital for 40 years, having just retired in 2007. I like to make small talk while starting an IV, so I asked her about her job while I stuck her in the arm. "You must have seen a lot of changes during your career." I told her as I hooked her up to some normal saline. She mentioned that one of the most interesting changes was in the area of pregnancy testing. She still found it amazing that pregnancy tests were now sold over the counter with results in minutes. I asked her if there had really been a rabbit test. She affirmed that there had been, but stated that the test in her hospital's lab had involved a frog. I definitely had to hear about this, so I asked for details. The patient described the testing process: obtaining the potentially pregnant woman's urine, injecting it into the frog, and then waiting.
"Then what?" I asked her.
"Why then you catheterize the frog, of course"
Wow. I have cathed 90 year old ladies and elderly men with ginormous prostates, but a frog? Now that is some delicate work.
I thought this was pretty interesting, so I googled it when I got home. Indeed frogs had been used for pregnancy testing up until the 60's in the US and 70's in some other parts of the world. Many of the Google results, however, had a modern twist. Several species of frogs are dying off today as a result of the pregnancy testing from decades ago. The ideal frog for these tests was the South African Clawed Frog, which was subsequently exported all over the world. Apparently a nasty froggy fungus circulated around the world with it. Now other frog species who are not immune to this funky fungus are dying off all over the place. Who knew?