Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sick Monkeys = Worthless Research

"AAALAC contends that good animal care and good science are inextricably linked, since medical and scientific bounty emanate only from the use of healthy research animals". [my emphasis] F. Key Kidder. Vivarium Forum: Accreditation A-Z. ALN Magazine; September/October 2005.
"Animals, like humans, are living organisms, and if you are trying to study a phenomenon that is characteristic of a living organism, there are certain kinds of questions that you only can answer using a living organism, complex questions where a response involves all of the feedback mechanisms that exist within the organism, but don't exist when you have an isolated piece of tissue or cells that are cultured.” Eric Sandgren, vivisector, and Chair of the University of Wisconsin, Madison Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee quoted by Nathan J. Comp in “Comp Time with Eric Sandgren.” Isthmus. 10/10/2007.
These dual claims – living animals are needed and they must be healthy – are commonly heard from those who defend the use of animals in research. The claims frequently go hand-in-hand as a rebuttal when an institution’s animal care is criticized. Researchers claim to be very concerned about the animals’ health because research results would be hopelessly skewed if the data came from sick animals; it is the complex biology of healthy living animals that is needed as a test bed, they claim.

Setting aside the general absurdity that one species is a predictive biological model of another, following the researchers’ arguments to their conclusion, if they use sick animals in their experiments, the results won’t be meaningful.

But, in the case of monkeys, all the animals are chronically ill. Following the researchers’ logic, much of the data coming out of the monkey labs is tainted due to the poor health of the animals.

Poor health?

Consider the health of two monkeys. One from Wisconsin, s93052, and one from California, MCY28114. If you think these cases might be exceptional, consider this:
In recent years, a substantial number of macaques have died at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, USA, following protracted intractable diarrhea. The diarrhea could last for up to two years and occurred in infant, juvenile or young adult animals. The histopathological diagnosis at autopsy was chronic colitis. Rubio CA, Hubbard GB. Chronic colitis in Macaca fascicularis: similarities with chronic colitis in humans. In Vivo. 2002.
Chronic enterocolitis is the leading cause of morbidity in colonies of captive rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta)... In colonies of nonhuman primates, recurring diarrhea is the leading cause of animal morbidity requiring veterinary care. Sestak K, Merritt CK, Borda J, Saylor E, Schwamberger SR, Cogswell F, Didier ES, Didier PJ, Plauche G, Bohm RP, Aye PP, Alexa P, Ward RL, Lackner AA. Infectious agent and immune response characteristics of chronic enterocolitis in captive rhesus macaques. Infect Immun. 2003 Jul;71(7):4079-86.
Put this in perspective: researchers claim to need healthy animals, but the monkeys are sick. They claim to be on the verge of a cure for every known human ailment, but are unable to cure diarrhea, even with an endless supply of animals with the naturally occurring condition.

In addition to the “protracted intractable diarrhea” so common in the monkeys, they are also, universally, suffering from a condition known as hypervitaminosis A
Chronic vitamin A toxicity develops after taking too much vitamin A for long periods. Bone pain and swelling of the bones is common, often associated with high levels of calcium in the blood. Other symptoms include hair loss, high cholesterol, liver damage, and vision problems. Symptoms are often subtle and may include fatigue, malaise, and nausea.

In children, hypervitaminosis A can cause craniotabes (abnormal softening of the skull bones). Irritability, decreased appetite, itchy skin, and poor weight gain are common. There may be skin changes with seborrhea (extremely oily skin and hair), and cracking at the corners of the mouth. Medline Plus
Now this:
The purpose of this study was to determine what types of feed are used at the National Primate Centers and to estimate the amount of VA [vitamin A] that rhesus macaques are consuming. Five of the eight centers responded to a short survey that was administered through telephone and electronic mail contacts. VA intakes are well above those that are considered adequate for humans, and VA concentrations in commercially prepared standard primate diets exceed National Research Council (NRC) recommendations by as much as four times. Penniston KL, Tanumihardjo SA. Vitamin A intake of captive rhesus monkeys exceeds national research council recommendations. Am J Primatol. 2006.
Recent work examining vitamin A (VA) status of rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) used as models for human biomedical research has revealed subtoxic hepatic VA concentrations. Livers of marmoset monkeys (Callithrix jacchus), another experimental animal, were also high in VA as was serum retinyl ester concentration. Both species consumed common research diets that provided up to four times the amount of VA (retinyl acetate) as currently recommended by the National Research Council. Mills JP, Penniston KL, Tanumihardjo SA. Extra-hepatic vitamin A concentrations in captive Rhesus (Macaca mulatta) and Marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) monkeys fed excess vitamin A. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2005.
We showed previously that hepatic vitamin A concentrations of captive rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) are subtoxic to toxic, with livers exhibiting stellate cell hypertrophy and hyperplasia. Penniston KL, Thayer JC, Tanumihardjo SA. Serum vitamin A esters are high in captive rhesus (Macaca mulatta) and marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) monkeys. J Nutr. 2003.
Although the rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta) is a widely used experimental animal, its exact vitamin A requirement is unknown.… Our goal was to determine hepatic vitamin A concentrations of captive monkeys. Liver autopsy samples from rhesus and marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) monkeys were obtained from the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center.… Liver samples were extracted and analyzed…. The vitamin A concentration of the rhesus monkey livers was very high…. Considering that the natural diet of the rhesus monkey (fruits, seeds, roots and insects) is not high in preformed vitamin A, the vitamin A content of the diet appears excessive, supplying four times the NRC recommendation and resulting in high liver stores. Penniston KL, Tanumihardjo SA. Subtoxic hepatic vitamin A concentrations in captive rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). J Nutr. 2001.
Adding to the problems of “protracted intractable diarrhea” and hypervitaminosis A is the problem of chronic captivity-induced mental illness. In its extreme version, self-mutilation, it effects at least 10% of the rhesus monkeys in US labs. In its less extreme versions, it may effect nearly all laboratory housed macaques.

"Medical and scientific bounty emanate only from the use of healthy research animals."

If, as primate vivisectors claim, they need whole living animals because they need to see all the feedback systems at work, or in the words of mouse vivisector Eric Sandgren, “[I]f you are trying to study a phenomenon that is characteristic of a living organism, there are certain kinds of questions that you only can answer using a living organism, complex questions where a response involves all of the feedback mechanisms that exist within the organism,” then the research with monkeys is bound to fail. Essentially, the animals they are using are sick to their stomachs, have chronic diarrhea, are being poisoned with vitamin A, and are insane.

I imagine one or two feedback systems might be affected.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just would like to comment that vivisectors live in contradictions. I am not surprised by Sundgren's comments. Only sad, as always, when learning about supposed intelligent people persisting in their errors...Personally, I believe that any animal belonging to the wild will get very sick from mind and body in a lab. Stress weakens and deteriorate our immune defenses.(Without mentioning the poisoning, the isolation, the lack of anger control towards the "subject"). On the other side, studying a disease jumping the reason of that disease won't bring many answers on how to defeat a disease either....