DYK African Clawed Frogs were used As Pregnancy Tests in 1970

DYK African Clawed Frogs were used As Pregnancy Tests in 1970

Did You Know African Clawed Frogs were used as a Pregnancy Test until the 1970s

Did You Know African Clawed Frogs were used as a Pregnancy Test until 1970s

Few people stop to think about the large number of technological advances we take for granted these days. Our standard of living has improved immensely compared to the life of our ancestors. A perfect example of this, which may surprise anyone under fifty years old, is the modern pregnancy test.

Today, anyone can walk into a Walgreens, pick up a pregnancy test, and less than thirty minutes later you’ll be bracing yourself for the results. It wasn’t always so simple, less than a century ago doctors had to make use of African Clawed Frogs, mice, and even rabbits to confirm a pregnancy. The animals were used in a very strange process involving a woman’s urine. How? Continue reading below and it will all be explained!

Xenopus pregnancy Test Using African Clawed Frogs!

Hogben pregnancy Test Using African Clawed Frogs!
Hogben pregnancy Test Using African Clawed Frogs!

From the 1930s through the 1950s thousands of African clawed frogs were shipped to labs all over the world to be used in the Xenopus pregnancy tests.

The scientific breakthrough known as the Xenopus Pregnancy Test was described by Dr. Edward R. Elkan in 1938, he wrote in the British Medical Journal,

“The discovery of what is now known as the xenopus pregnancy test is based on experiments conducted by Hogben (1930, 1931), who observed that hypophysectomy produced ovarian retrogression, and the injection of anterior pituitary extracts ovulation, in the female”

What do all of those fancy words mean in English?

The process involved in the Xenopus pregnancy test sounds a bit odd. However, the test had a near-perfect record of predicting pregnancy. If a woman suspected that she may be pregnant, she would visit her family doctor. Her doctor would collect urine from the woman and send the sample to special frog labs set up across the globe.

Technicians working in the frog labs would inject the hind leg of a female frog with the women’s urine. The unsuspecting African-clawed frog would be placed back into their tanks until the next morning. After arriving at work and having a delicious cup of scientific-flavored coffee. The technician would check the tank for frog eggs floating in the water.

Eggs in an African Clawed Frog tank.
Eggs in an African Clawed Frog tank.

Which meant the female frog had ovulated, and the woman who provided the urine sample was pregnant. The pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin, contained in the woman’s urine had caused ovulation in the frog.

Accuracy of the Xenopus Pregnancy Test

Speaking about the accuracy of the Hogben Test, Dr. Edward R. Elkan continued to write in the British Medical Journal,

Among the 295 tests which I have done so far and in which 2,112 frogs were used I have not seen one clear positive that did not indicate a pregnancy. There were a few negative results which when repeated after a fortnight became positive, but I do not think that these can be regarded as failures

African Clawed Frogs were a Huge Improvement over the previous method of checking for pregnancy!

The African Clawed Frog was actually a huge improvement on the previous method of testing whether or not a woman was pregnant. Welcome History describes:

Prior to Xenopus, female mice and rabbits had been used, but these poor animals had to be killed, dissected and their ovaries examined for changes. The toads were endlessly reusable and could be kept in an aquarium. This made pregnancy testing practical on a much larger scale than ever before.

Immunological test kits finally replaced the Xenopus test in the 1960s and were used by private companies and feminist organizations offering diagnostic services directly to women.

The First In-Home Pregnancy Test!

In the early 1970s, the first over-the-counter home pregnancy test was sold in pharmacies. These early tests were not user-friendly and resembled a small chemistry set. It wasn’t until 1988 that the modern pregnancy test we all know and love hit the store shelves.

The First In Home Pregnancy Test! Image of woman holding an In Home Pregnancy Test
Image of a woman holding an In-Home Pregnancy Test

Taking things for granted!

I realize pregnancy tests don’t rank very high on the list of the things we take for granted in modern times. However, imagine how different the world would be today if those little pee-on-a-stick tests weren’t around!

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DYK African Clawed Frogs were used As Pregnancy Tests in 1970