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Primate testing in Europe

Health and sickness

In study BVR1013, one monkey displayed aggression towards the others and so was housed alone. When this animal was taken out the cage to be dosed by oral gavage, he vomited faeces, which he’d apparently eaten in his cage.

He then had a nose bleed. After one dosing session a technician pointed out that the monkey had laid down and recovered after a few minutes[75,76]. As recovery was rapid after being returned to his cage, it is possible that all the clinical signs were a result of stress rather than an effect of the test compound.

It has been established that the consumption of faeces can arise from food deficiency, boredom, social stress and medical problems in captive primates[77], and as single housing can cause increased suffering, a more flexible approach should have been taken to his management, as described by Wolfensohn and Honess (2005)[78]. Despite the fact that clinical signs such as this would be important to the study, it was later noted that the events concerning this monkey had not in fact been recorded[79]. Two weeks later, this poor monkey was still being used in the study while it continued to suffer nose bleeds and vomit faeces[80].

During their time at HLS, a few animals in the stock group for study VKS0527 were noted to be suffering constant diarrhoea from the time they were transferred to the unit[81,82], some were also vomiting[83,84] and one continued to salivate for two hours after oral dosing[85]. One monkey on this study suffered a chronic skin condition which did not clear up, despite numerous treatments[86-90]. One unfortunate animal also died suddenly after being dosed[91].

Animal 205050548: This particular animal suffered from continual and sustained ill health and is an example of the extent of suffering endured by some individuals in establishments such as this. The animal arrived from J06 with sunken eyes[92-97] and around a week later the vet was called because the monkey had suffered from persistent diarrhoea over several days. The vet gave anti diarrhoeal and rehydration drugs[98]. During the following weeks the animal’s condition did not improve, despite further drug treatment[99], and blood was seen in the faeces[100]. A vet took a faecal sample and found the animal had a gut parasite. The animal was finally treated for this condition[101]. On the next examination the animal was found to have no gut parasite in her faeces, but was still suffering from diarrhoea, particularly when stressed during removal from her cage. The vet re-examined her and suggested that the animal was suffering from a permanent inflammatory stress condition[102]. The monkey was diagnosed with further gut parasites around three weeks later and was placed on another treatment regime[103-108].

A further five weeks later the animal was again treated with antibiotic subcutaneously; the investigator noted “someone says she has campylobacter” (another gut infection)[109]. The investigator wrote, “none of the treatment ever truly cured her. On the day I left she still was showing signs of diarrhoea. She will stay there and be transferred to a project licence that allows her to be used simply for providing blood. She will remain as a stock animal, already having been separated from the original monkey that she shared her cage with on arrival and now currently lives with number 852…She will probably spend the rest of her life just sitting in her cage with her cage mate, having no other interaction than when she is bled every so often”[110].

A female on the HIV vaccine study was found to be lame with a swollen knee, and it was understood that the vet prescribed painkillers and anti-inflammatories[111]. A week later she showed “severe muscle wastage on its leg during health check due to not using it” [112,113]. Two weeks later she was killed at the end of the test. During the necropsy, it was discovered that she had suffered a torn ligament[114].

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