Retired Lab Chimps Pressed Back Into Service

A San Antonio lab says primate research is necessary for curing diseases like AIDS and hepatitis. But what progress has really been made.

Southwest was chosen because of its ability "to provide continued high-quality care for the chimpanzees," the spokesperson stated in an e-mail.

When we asked the spokesperson how the NIH could be so confident of "high-quality care" given incidents like the live baboon necropsy, we were passed off to another spokesperson, Renate Myles.

Myles explained in an e-mail that the NIH's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare determined that USDA's findings were "unsubstantiated." (She also referred to Southwest's other USDA violations — incidents in which primates died and for which Southwest paid fines — as "allegations.")

So it appears that as far as the NIH is concerned, the USDA inspector in the necropsy case was an idiot.

Myles later called the Houston Press, expressing concern about how the disagreement between the agencies was being "portrayed." She offered an off-the-record discussion with someone from the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare in order to place its enigmatic findings in "context." Citing abject absurdity, the Press declined. Given that USDA inspections and all other documents obtained for this story are public records, the NIH's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare should not be exempt from transparency and accountability.

While Myles stated in an e-mail that the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare "coordinates with USDA," David Sacks, a USDA spokesman, told the Press he is not privy to the NIH's investigative criteria.

But either the Southwest vets performed a necropsy on a living animal or they didn't. The criterion is a pulse.

"I'm not paid to take hypothetical things and to try to make judgment calls," Sacks said. "Our goal is to ensure the welfare of the animals we regulate."

Which is good. It's important to have goals.
_____________________

VandeBerg's library analogy especially riles Dallas doctor John Pippin.

Pippin, director of academic affairs for the Washington, D.C.-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, is the kind of person VandeBerg would label an "animal-rights extremist." This is because Pippin, a board-certified physician specializing in cardiovascular diseases in internal medicine who served on the faculties of Harvard Medical School and the Medical College of Virginia, disagrees with him.

When asked about his thoughts on the upcoming 30th annual AIDS symposium, he says, "We've got a handful of nothing after three decades."

He adds, "There is this lingering...dependence on discredited nonhuman primate research regarding HIV, and hopefully this 30th review of the situation will be the last, because people who have contracted HIV and people who are at risk for HIV deserve better than that. They deserve better than continuing a fruitless, money-wasting, time-wasting approach to HIV research."

Pippin believes the future of AIDS research involves human subjects — namely, the roughly one in 300 HIV-positive people who, without taking any drugs, have never developed AIDS. These "elite controllers" have undetectable viral loads and healthy immune systems.

He also finds fault in Southwest's claims in other areas of research, including hepatitis; the notion that chimpanzees were crucial to the development of a hepatitis B vaccine is "disingenuous," he says.

"Chimpanzees were not used to actually characterize the disease and develop the treatment," he says. "Chimpanzees were used to grow the virus...you could say they were incubators, but they were not essential to the research."

Pippin is also critical of Southwest's recent announcements about advances in hepatitis C research.

In August, Lanford and other scientists published the results of a study showing the effects of an antibody they say prevented hepatitis C in chimps. While the antibody wouldn't help someone whose liver is already infected with the virus, it could possibly prevent the virus from infecting a transplanted liver.

Lanford also believed an earlier study showed promising work, and he provided a copy to the Institute of Medicine committee prior to its report. In a September 2011 letter to the committee chair, he advocated for the continued use of chimps in research for vaccines for both preventing and treating hepatitis C (HCV) and B (HBV).

"Although many have spoken on behalf of the chimpanzees at research facilities...the committee has not heard from advocates of the 500 million people chronically infected with HCV and HBV," he wrote. "The peak of the epidemic of HCV infections has been with us for several decades; however, we are just entering the period of maximum mortality due to cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease and cancer...soon, most individuals will know a family member, friend or co-worker that has died of this disease. The question before you today is have we done enough, but the question will likely become, could we have done more."

Ultimately, the Institute's committee was evenly split on the necessity of chimps for the development of a preventative HCV vaccine. In its December 2011 report, the Institute committee stated there were few areas of current research where chimps might still be needed, as in the continued use of antibodies "already in the developmental pipeline," for example, and in "comparative genomics research." The latter involves the use of previously harvested blood and tissue, as well as samples taken from live chimps with "minimal risk of pain and distress." The committee also found that chimps might be necessary for behavioral research.

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15 comments
judyslove
judyslove

This is truly a tragedy. Testing on primates should be banned and made illegal everywhere. These primates should be released to caring animal sanctuarys that can provide a much needed change of lifestyle for these beautiful and intelligent animals, they have suffered for far too long.

Schitt.Rumpney
Schitt.Rumpney

Now thats a damn shame. If a po-ass monkey got to go back to work after retirement....what thuh...?

celinejoste
celinejoste

Hey people!  Don't be upset by this story.  THE HOUSTON PRESS is known for FAUX NEWS regarding animal abuse.  They did a story a couple of years ago about someone who was slashing cats then letting them out near where they were abducted, so the owners would find them dead.  It was a horrible story.  We called the numbers listed in the what turned out to be fictitious  story and spoke to someone who was supposedly the animal investigator in charge.  She said "wow, we got a lot of response to that story.  I'll call you back."   Of course she never did.  We had informed her that a group of volunteers in the area were willing to go house to house asking if anyone had seen anything suspicious in the way of catnapping going on.  After more investigating the details - turns out the story was BOGUS, just like this one.

stkittchick
stkittchick

That photo ... that gut-wrenching, heartbreaking photo.  An innocent, condemned.  Life in prison, sanctioned torture, all for nothing. Absolutely nothing.  Future generations will look back appalled by what we are doing to these animals.  Take a stand!  Speak out!  Take one minute out of your day to let others know what's going on.

jaspercat
jaspercat

Heaven help you if you catch a case of the hepatits, the primary symptom of which is terrible copy-editing.

 

How many decades will pass before we stop saying that torturing chimpanzees will cure AIDS in humans? This broken record-style approach to prevention, treatment, and a cure has gotten us nowhere, and people and animals have suffered because of it.

ramsey85
ramsey85

Chimpanzees, like all primates, are sensitive, intelligent beings. Beyond the torture and cruelty of being experimented on, they are confined to barren steel cages with no space to move naturally and no environmental enrichment. The testing that's really needed is on the lab workers who can do this to another living being: Where is their empathy?     

thedanimal
thedanimal

"Your money is good — but your questions aren't." - well said

jcmhoutx
jcmhoutx

Even if experiments on animals gave us useful information about human health -- which it doesn't* -- it's simply and unjustifiably cruel to cage thinking, feeling beings and torment them just because we can. After reading on PETA.org about the sickening ways in which primates are tortured and abused at SNPRC, Covance, Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories and other facilities, I will never support any business or charity that funds experiments on animals.  It just wastes money, endangers human health, and inflicts physical and psychological agony on its terrified victims.

 

*Even small physical/genetic differences between species make it impossible to successfully apply results from other animals to humans. For example, no chimpanzee has ever developed AIDS from normal exposure to HIV, despite SNPRC's eagerness to use them for AIDS research. How many "miracle cures" in animals have you heard about that never materialized for humans? And how many drugs that passed animal testing later proved to harm or even kill patients? You can thank experiments on animals for those.

jacknsue
jacknsue

Poor babies, lived in pain all of their life so resource doctors can meet at cocktails and pat each other on the back and brag about what greatness they have accompliced!!

 

 

terryx666
terryx666

@Hungryghoast I watched God Bless America last night and thought of you. It may not have been bleak enough for you, though.

Hungryghoast
Hungryghoast

@terryx666 remember wanting to see that though the plot seemed a little silly.....

terryx666
terryx666

@Hungryghoast I'd say more spotty than silly. In the same vein as Heathers, but with a different twist. On Netflix streaming.

 
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