US invests millions to breed more test monkeys following COVID-19: report

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The U.S. government is reportedly investing millions of dollars to raise more monkeys in the name of biomedical research after a shortage of animals worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the scientific journal Nature, the demand for non-human primates in the United States has skyrocketed as the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded grants to study HIV / AIDS and the coronavirus required the use of animals in vaccine tests last year.

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The publication reported Thursday that the NIH had invested about $ 29 million over the past two years in primate housing and care in addition to other “infrastructure improvements” at the seven national primate research centers. (NPRC) Americans and that the agency is expected to spend another $ 7.5 million by October.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) budget in brief for fiscal 2022 includes an additional $ 30 million to support a 27% increase in funding for resource infrastructure for non-human primates in the United States. NPRC and the Caribbean Primate Research Center (CPRC).

“These resources will meet space and infrastructure needs such as the purchase and transport of animals, as well as investments to expand housing and support spaces,” the agency wrote in its request. .

According to Nature’s report, around $ 8 million in recent funding for NPRCs came from the 2020 CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) law.

The NPRC has more than 22,000 animals, including rodents such as rats, mice and voles.

Rhesus macaques are the most common non-human primates used in NPRC research programs, and the centers’ website explains that this is due to similar “biological links” between animals and humans.

Baboons, cynomolgus and pigtail macaques, marmosets, and squirrel monkeys are also included in the tests.

“Animal species are carefully associated with research studies to ensure valid scientific results that will be applicable to human health,” the site says.

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US scientists used 68,257 non-human primates in 2019, according to the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service “Annual Animal Use Report by Fiscal Year.”

Speaking to James Anderson, director of the NIH’s division of program coordination, planning and strategic initiatives, Nature learned that the NIH had convened an internal committee in 2020 to prioritize projects requiring the research apes and that China had stopped supplying cynomolgus macaques at the start of the pandemic. .

Animal testing has been widely controversial, and animal rights groups have clashed with scientists over the issue for years.

Many major airlines have decided against transporting non-human primates due to opposition, making transport particularly difficult.

However, while questions of ethical morality remain subjects of heated discussion, scientists say that non-human primates have played a critical role in vaccine and therapeutic testing.

One of the “FAQs” on the NPRC website responds to allegations of animal abuse or mistreatment, indicating that regulations and guidelines set by government agencies are being followed.

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“Providing the best compassionate care to the animals at NPRC is a top priority and helps ensure that research results are scientifically valid. NPRC staff monitor the animals daily to quickly respond to any concerns, and all animals receive comprehensive annual exams, just like humans, ”the centers said.

“The NPRC follow the regulations and guidelines set by the NIH, USDA through the Animal Care Act and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees.

“What happens if [a pandemic] happens again, with another virus in three years? “Anderson asked Nature.” We want to be ready for this. “


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