Record number of monkeys being used in U.S. research | Science

Rhesus macaques are amongst the most popular nonhuman primates used in biomedical research.

AP Photo/BrennanLinsley

Thenumber of monkeys used in U.S. biomedical research reached an all-time high in 2015, according to information launched in late September by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The uptick (see chart listed below)– to almost 76,000 nonhuman primates in 2017– appears to show growing need from researchers who think nonhuman primates are better than other animals, such as mice or canines, for screening drugs and studying illness that likewise strike people.

“I think the numbers are trending up because these animals give us better data. … We need them more than ever,” states Jay Rappaport, director of the Tulane National Primate Research Center in Covington, Louisiana, which houses about 5000monkeys The boost likewise comes in the middle of a rise in financing from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which supports much of the nonhuman primate research in the United States.

The figures have actually amazed and dissatisfied groups looking for to minimize the usage of laboratory animals. The biomedical neighborhood has stated it is dedicated to lowering the usage of research animals by discovering replacements and utilizing these animals more selectively, states Thomas Hartung, director of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing in Baltimore,Maryland But the brand-new numbers recommend “people are just blindly running toward the monkey model without critically evaluating how valuable it really is.”

Nonhuman primate research has actually dealt with magnifying examination. Harvard University closed its national primate research center— one of just 8 in the nation–in2015, after a federal examination into the deaths of 4 of its animals. That very same year, NIH ended its support of all invasive chimpanzee studies, mentioning a report that discovered these animals were no longer vital to biomedicalresearch And in 2016, Congress directed NIH to hold a workshop on the energy and principles of monkey research.

Monkeys rising

Trendsin the usage of numerous research animals as a portion modification over their 2008 numbers

-40-30-20-10 01020 MonkeysCatsDogsGuinea pigsRabbits 2008Percent200920102011201220132014201520162017


Public opposition to animal research has actually been increasing– with a current Pew Research Center survey finding that a record 52% of Americans oppose such studies And importing monkeys to the United States has actually ended up being significantly tough as practically all commercial air carriers now refuse to fly the animals

Yet according to the brand-new USDA figures, scientists used 75,825 nonhuman primates for research last year, up 22% given that 2015 and 6% given that2008 In contrast, the number of felines, canines, bunnies, and other animals taped by USDA are all being used at lower numbers than they were a years back. (Nonhuman primates make up simply 0.5% of all animals used in U.S. biomedical research; about 95% are rats and mice, which are not reported by USDA.) The overall number of monkeys in laboratories– which likewise consists of those reproduced in nests and those not presently being used in research– has actually stayed relatively consistent for the previous years, with about 110,000 taped in 2015 (see 2nd chart, listed below).

The uptick in monkey research “represents both the state of the science and the importance of nonhuman primates,” NIH stated in a declaration. Nearly two-thirds of the nonhuman primates the firm assistances are rhesus macaques, with cynomolgus macaques (15%), baboons (6%), and a lots other monkey types comprising the rest. The increasing need for rhesus macaques seems driven by scientists studying HIV/AIDS, the brain, Alzheimer’s illness, and dependency, according to an NIH report launched inSeptember

The increase may likewise show the firm’s broadening financial investment in these research studies. NIH offered 249 grants in 2017 that supported nonhuman primate research, up from 171 in2013 And the firm anticipates the number of nonhuman primates it supports to continue to grow in coming years.

Growing need

The overall number of monkeys in research laboratories has actually not altered much in the previous couple of years, however more are being used in research studies.

Numberof nonhuman primates 2008200920102011201220132014201520162017 0 50,000 100,000 150,000 Bred and housed Experimented


That projection irritates Hartung, who states NIH must introduce an evaluation of the requirement for monkeys, comparable to the one that led it toend its support for chimpanzee research He challenges the concept, for example, that nonhuman primates are better for drug screening than rats or mice. Nonhuman primates are more genetically variable than rodents, he argues, and scientists generally utilize reasonably couple of monkeys for research studies of drug effectiveness and security. As an outcome, those experiments might yield manipulated information on how the drugs will act in people. Scientists welcoming monkey experiments, he states, are at danger of “repeating the mistakes of the past.”

Other animal supporters hope the brand-new data will move members of Congress to put higher pressure on U.S. firms to minimize nonhuman primate usage. “I think when Congress sees these numbers, things are going to come to a head,” states Mike Ryan, director of policy and federal government affairs at the New England Anti-VivisectionSociety inBoston This week, Representative Brendan Boyle (D– PA)– responding to an investigation into the Food and Drug Administration( FDA) by the Washington, D.C.– based animal activist White Coat Waste Project– sent out a bipartisan letter to FDA asking it to evaluate all research studies including the more than 300 nonhuman primates it manages. “Painful primate testing is shameful, and it has no place in the 21st century,” Boyle informs Science “It’s clear that federal agencies are still not doing enough to curb this appalling practice.”

In the meantime, Rappaport states nonhuman primate centers like his are merely having a hard time to fulfill the need. Some researchers are reporting that they have actually postponed research studies by a minimum of 6 months due to the fact that they can’t get animals, the NIH report notes. The growing need might hone the stress surrounding animalresearch “The public wants more cures, but fewer animals,” states Cindy Buckmaster, board chair of the Washington, D.C.– based Americans for Medical Progress, which supports animal research studies. “They can’t have it both ways.”

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