New applications of the human whole blood pyrogen assay (PyroCheck)

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Stefan Fennrich
Albrecht Wendel
Thomas Hartung


The absence of pyrogens in injectable drugs is an indispensable safety control because contaminants causing fever pose a life-threatening risk to the patient resulting in the worst case in death by shock . When fever- inducing agents, i.e. pyrogens, come into contact with the immunocompetent cells in blood, these cells release mediators which transmit the fever signal to the thermoregulatory centre of the brain. The Phamocopoeia lists currently two test systems for pyrogenicity:
1. The in vivo rabbit pyrogen test which measures the fever reaction following injection of the sample to the animals.
2. The in vitro Limulus Amebocyte Lysate assay (LAL) which measures the coagulation in a lysate prepared from the blood of the horseshoe crab specifically initiated by endotoxins, i.e. cell wall components from Gram-negative bacteria.
The new test presented here (PyroCheck) exploits the reaction of monocytes/macrophages for the detection of pyrogens: human whole blood taken from healthy volunteers is incubated in the presence of the test sample in any form, be it a solution, a powder or even solid material. Pyrogenic contaminations initiate the release of the "endogenous pyrogen" Interleukin-1ß determined by ELISA after a fixed incubation time. The technology presently listed in the Pharmacopoeia is limited to parenteralia (rabbit test: biologicals and pharmaceuticals, LAL: predominantly pharmaceuticals). In the EU Medical Devices Directive from 1995 the rabbit pyrogen test for medical products is in some cases requested (in some cases LAL of an eluate from the device). However, pyrogen-testing needs to cover also innovative high-tech products such as medical devices (implants, medical plastic materials, dialysis machines), cellular therapies and species-specific agents (e.g. recombinant proteins). Here we report that the human blood test PyroCheck is suitable for testing filters in air quality control as well as for assessing medical devices and biocompatibility (dialysate fluid), i.e. that it can be extended to a wide spectrum of applications.

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How to Cite
Fennrich, S., Wendel, A. and Hartung, T. (1999) “New applications of the human whole blood pyrogen assay (PyroCheck)”, ALTEX - Alternatives to animal experimentation, 16(3), pp. 146–149. Available at: (Accessed: 26 June 2022).
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