The guinea-pig has been used for over 20 years to demonstrate skin-sensitizing ability in chemical compounds. Correlation between the results of workers in this field is difficult because of the wide range of conditions under which tests for sensitizing potential have been performed. This has made difficult any attempt to compare the relative abilities of various chemical compounds to produce skin sensitization.
In a routine test for skin-sensitizing potential, solutions of suspected sensitizing substance have been applied over three days to the ears of guinea-pigs, and the flanks have been challenged one week later with a range of concentrations of suspected sensitizing substance. The erythematous reaction produced 24 hours after challenge was rated and compared with that in unsensitized controls. Various alternative methods of skin testing have been compared with this ear-flank test.
The ear-flank test gives good, reproducible results with many classes of chemical compound, including types of compound not previously described as giving rise to sensitization in the guinea-pig or in man, and including some compounds which are known to have carcinogenic potential. It is also demonstrated that sensitizing potential is found more frequently among aromatic (aryl) than aliphatic (alkyl) compounds. Particularly strong sensitization reactions are produced by certain aryl halides, aryl isocyanates, aryl hydrazines, N-nitroso compounds, and aromatic nitroso-compounds. An attempt is made to relate the results of animal tests to reported cases of human skin sensitization.
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