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The Neutral Red Uptake Assay: Comments on the Results of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità in the EC/HO Validation Study


Annalaura Stammati, Franco Zampaglioni and Cristiana Zanetti

The neutral red uptake (NRU) assay was included, among others, in a validation study sponsored by the European Commission/British Home Office (EC/HO) study, for its reliability as an in vitro alternative to the Draize eye irritancy test. The test was performed in parallel by four laboratories (Istituto Superiore di Sanità [ISS], Microbiological Associates, Hatano Research Institute and Kurabo Industries) on 60 selected chemicals. The results obtained by the ISS are reported in this paper. A poor rank correlation was obtained between the in vivo endpoint and the ISS in vitro results for the full set of chemicals and for the subsets, with the exception of surfactants, by an independent statistics group. The same unsatisfactory results were obtained by the ISS group when the rank correlation was calculated for compounds divided into chemical groups. The performance of the NRU assay, as an alternative to the Draize eye irritancy test, is discussed.