Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Aquarium Diver Swallows Tiny Camera as a Test

The good news? Tiny camera-pills doctors use to see the digestive tracks of humans may be used to peek at the innards of sick whales and dolphins.

When big animals like belugas and whale sharks become ill, veterinarians have to catch them and sedate them to do the blood work, take stool samples and do other invasive procedures to diagnose their illness, said Greg Bossart, the aquarium’s chief veterinary officer.

That can stress the animals, he said.

If, however, they could swallow a pill that would allow veterinarians to see inside their systems, they could be helped without being bothered, he said.

“This is supposed to be non-invasive,” Bossart said. “That’s the beauty of this, it does not hurt the animal at all.”

The test is a first for aquariums, Bossart said, and the cutting-edge technology could change the way big animals like dolphins, grouper and whales are managed.

The bad news? It's expensive.

The camera-pills costs about $500 each and an accompanying receiver that records the images costs about $5,000, said Greg Seitz, marketing product manger of Given Imaging, maker of the pill. The pill, which has been used on humans since 2001, can be used only one time.

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