SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
2 November 2017
Volume 18 Issue 11

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Dung Organism Toxicity Testing Standardization (DOTTS) Interest Group

Jörg Römbke, ECT Oekotoxikologie GmbH

Dung beetlesBackground

In 2003, a description of the DOTTS Interest Group was published in the November/December issue of the SETAC Globe. It was founded in 2002 as an initiative responding to a need to harmonize testing requirements for veterinary medicinal products (VMPs) known as the International Cooperation on Harmonization of Technical Requirements for Registration of Veterinary Products (VICH). Partners of this initiative were (and still are) the European Union (EU), Japan and the USA, with Australia, New Zealand and Canada as observers. At that time, there were no internationally recognized standard guidelines for testing the effects of VMPs, in particular parasiticides on dung organisms, especially dung flies and dung beetles.

An inaugural meeting of interested parties took place on 25 and 26 February 2002, with representatives from Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. One outcome of this meeting was the formation of the DOTTS Interest Group. In December 2002, DOTTS became affiliated with SETAC Europe. As such, the group abides by the scientific principles of SETAC and acts in the interests of government regulators, the veterinary pharmaceutical industry and research institutions (e.g., universities, contract laboratories, government). A second meeting of the group was organized parallel to the SETAC Europe conference in May 2003 in Hamburg, Germany. Since then, this tradition has been kept, meaning that besides technical workshops organized as needed, such meetings have been arranged each year as part of SETAC Europe conferences, and the latest one was held during the SETAC Europe 28th Annual Meeting in May 2017 in Brussels, Belgium.

Organization of the DOTTS Interest Group 

Currently, the DOTTS Interest Group (IG) has 28 members, 12 of them are from business (almost all of them are from contract labs or consulting companies), nine from government and seven from academia. Ten countries (mainly European plus Canada) are represented. Both SETAC members and non-members regularly contribute to the group activities. Decisions are made during the annual meetings, usually by acclamation, or via e-mails or phone conferences.

Aims of the Group

The DOTTS IG initially defined itself as a discussion platform for all parties interested in the dung ecotoxicology of VMPs. The initial focus of this IG was to:

  1. Exchange information about testing the effects of veterinary drugs on dung organisms
  2. Develop test protocols for toxicity testing with dung arthropods in the laboratory, including the organization of ring tests with these organisms in order to standardize and validate the proposed test protocols
  3. Generate and discuss ideas for the performance and assessment of higher-tier tests, both in the laboratory as well as in the field

The focus of the IG has since broadened to include topics such as risk mitigation measures (RMM) of VMPs. At the 2017 meeting in Brussels, representatives from a local Belgian non-governmental organization joined our discussion. The aim of this group is to translate scientific results of anthelmintic research on resistance and environmental effects into practical guidelines for farmers and conservation area managers. Further co-operation is planned.

What We Achieved So Far

Between 2006 and 2008 DOTTS members developed, validated and standardized the OECD Test Guideline 228 with two species of dung flies. Two separate ring tests (one for each species, Scathophaga stercoraria and Musca autumnalis) were performed by DOTTS members. In the two following years, we did the same with a dung beetle species (Aphodius constans). After the ring test, the new test method was published as OECD Guidance Document 122 in 2010.

However, it became clear after an intensive discussion both within DOTTS as well as with regulators that because of big ecological differences between dung beetle species, an additional test species was needed. Between 2010 and 2016, two ring tests were performed using the species Onthophagus nuchicornis and Onthophagus taurus. Test results identified the latter species as a suitable extension of the existing test battery. In the near future, the existing OECD Guidance Document 122 will be modified to encompass use of both A. constans and O. taurus. The results of the Onthophagus sp. ring tests are currently being prepared for scientific publication.

In parallel to the standardization of laboratory tests, DOTTS members became strongly involved in the development of a higher-tier field test with VMPs, especially parasiticides (Jochmann et al. 2011). This higher-tier field test covers the effects of VMP residues on the structure (biodiversity) and function (services) of dung organisms. From 2013 to 2015, a field test (supported by the German Environment Agency UBA) was performed simultaneously in four countries (Canada, France, Switzerland and The Netherlands). In 2016, the results of this project were published as a Special Section (5 scientific papers) in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. In the same year, DOTTS members were asked to comment on a document compiled by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) titled “Guideline on the higher tier testing of VMPs to dung fauna.” Most recently, in June 2017, several DOTTS members were invited to discuss the outcome of this commenting activity in a workshop at the EMA in London.


In July 2017, Dr. Keith Wardhaugh (formerly CSIRO Australia), DOTTS member between 2003 until his retirement in 2013, passed away. He was a great scientist and a good friend. The DOTTS membership will always retain respectful memories of this extraordinary personality.

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