Another blow for the pro-vivisection lobby

Posted on the 20th March 2015

An article that appeared in the Guardian Weekly has strongly criticised the use of mice as ‘models’ of human disease. Interviewing scientists from the National Institutes of Health and Harvard Medical School, it describes how experiments on mice have failed to lead to treatments for several diseases, including tuberculosis (TB) and septicaemia.

Dr Clifton Barry, head of the TB research programme at the National Institutes of Health, describes two compelling examples of the problems with animal research. He explains how three TB drugs that showed promise in rodents completely failed in human clinical trials. Meanwhile, an effective new treatment for TB in humans (Linezolid) was almost lost because it had no effect on mice. Interviewing a Professor at Harvard Medical School, the article identifies the same problems with regard to septicaemia. Over the past decade, 150 molecules have failed to treat the condition in humans, despite favourable results in mice.

The article offers a disturbing insight into why mice continue to be used, despite the failure of rodent-based research to generate concrete medical progress. A science historian describes how the mouse’s short lifecycle helps researchers publish prolifically, and the head of animal facilities at the Institut Pasteur explains the practical advantages of animals who are small, inexpensive and reproduce quickly.

While the Guardian article suggests that using animals such as non-human primates may be a more effective approach, the scientific community is becoming increasingly dubious about the validity of any animal research. Just one example is an article and accompanying editorial published last year in the prestigious British Medical Journal, which cast serious doubt over the effectiveness of using animals as human surrogates.

Given the appalling suffering inflicted on animals in laboratories and the inability of such experiments to reliably predict human responses, it is time that the cruel and outdated practice of vivisection was abandoned and replaced entirely with human-relevant, non-animal research methods.

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