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Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2008 Mar;50(2):206-17. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2007.11.007. Epub 2007 Nov 28.

A retrospective analysis of developmental toxicity studies in rat and rabbit: what is the added value of the rabbit as an additional test species?

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National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), 3720 BA Bilthoven, The Netherlands.


In contrast to most toxicological tests, developmental studies are usually required in both a rodent and a non-rodent species. This study retrospectively assessed the added value of the rabbit developmental test when a rat developmental test is available. In contrast with previous reviews, we looked at developmental toxicity instead of teratogenicity, and took into account maternal toxicity in the evaluation of developmental toxicity. We analyzed data for 54 substances classified for developmental toxicity and 73 substances considered to be teratogenic in the rabbit and not in the rat in two previous reviews. On average, the rat and the rabbit developmental toxicity studies were similarly sensitive: the average ratio of the NOAELs between the two species was about one, and for most compounds there were no differences between rat and rabbit studies in terms of classification for developmental toxicity. For certain substances the developmental study in either one of the two species appeared to be more sensitive than in the other species. However, these differences are partly due to differences between studies other than the test species used. Overall, our analysis does not clearly indicate that the evaluation of developmental toxicity, as opposed to other types of toxicity, would specifically require the rabbit as an additional test species. The discrimination between direct and indirect (i.e., as a consequence of maternal toxicity) developmental effects was often doubtful, and is one of the factors that could explain the apparent differences between the two species. A more accurate assessment of maternal toxicity might improve the reliability of the results from a single developmental toxicity study. More knowledge about the interaction between maternal and developmental effects is required before decisions on omitting the requirement for the developmental toxicity testing in a second species can be considered.

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