Federal Investigators Looking into Monkey Deaths at UTMB Lab

Federal investigators are looking into allegations of animal cruelty in relation to 12 monkeys who died at the University of Texas Medical Branch's National Laboratory after being injected with the deadly Marburg virus, the Houston Chronicle is reporting. 

The investigation follows an audit by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases finding that "11 critical research problems that 'would affect the validity or integrity of a study and/or the acceptability of a contract research organization,' and 59 major problems that showed a departure from standard operating procedures and good laboratory practices 'that could jeopardize the acceptability of a research organization,'" according to the Chron.

The audit was made public after a whistleblower tipped off a group called Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!

"We believe that UTMB has responded appropriately and is taking the necessary steps to reach resolution with the federal agencies," UTMB's vice president and chief compliance officer told the Chron.

According to the story:

The audit report criticized the National Lab for leaving 12 Macaque monkeys infected with Marburg unattended for 15-18 hours. Eight of the monkeys were found dead in their cages. "It is unknown how long these animals might have suffered before dying," the audit report said. "It is unacceptable to leave animals that are expected to die unattended during the time frame death is expected."

The story also explains that "penalties for a violation of federal policy on the humane care and use of laboratory animals could range from increased training requirements to UTMB losing funding from federal health agencies, including the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration."

We're glad that these allegations are being taken seriously, and we look forward to the results of the investigation.

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