Why Replace Animals When You Can Use Them?

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Why Replace Animals When You Can Use Them?

By Ray Greek, M.D. on National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS)

Dr. Greek explores what the Three R's really mean

The Three Rs community supposedly believes in Reducing the number of animals used, Refining techniques to reduce the pain and suffering of animals used, and finally Replacing animals with nonanimal tests. But what does this mean in reality?

Consider the case of using monkeys to test the polio vaccine for contamination. Bhogal and Combes of the Three Rs group FRAME in the UK wrote in the Three Rs magazine ATLA in 2006:

In a small number of cases, GA [genetically altered] mice might eventually supplant the use of other animals in research and testing. One example is the use of transgenic TgPVR 21 mice expressing the human polio virus receptor for the neurovirulence testing of the oral polio vaccine (OPV), which could obviate the use of primates in such tests. The use of this model is supported by the World Health Organisation [WHO], since not only do these mice display histological and physical signs of motor neuron degeneration associated with human forms of the disease that can be monitored by paralysis scoring, but also because tests of OPV lots can be conducted in 2 weeks rather than in 1.52 months, the time taken to conduct primate-based neurovirulence testing. [I]

Apparently, what FRAME and the vivisection community want to do in this instance is replace primates with mice.

Contrast that position with the viewpoint below. According to the Dr Hadwen Trust [II]:

Primates are used routinely to test for reversion to neurovirulence of batches of polio vaccine. The vaccine is injected into the spinal cord of groups of macaques, causing severe suffering, including paralysis.

MAPREC (Mutant Analysis by Polymerase chain reaction and Restriction Enzyme Cleavage) is a non-animal molecular method of assessing the production consistency of polio vaccine. It detects mutations which could lead to the vaccine virus regaining virulence. MAPREC can be used for all three strains of the polio vaccine and has been validated and accepted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) [3]. However, the WHO currently only uses MAPREC as a screening process rather than a complete replacement of primate tests. Vaccine batches that pass MAPREC are still put through the primate neurovirulence test, while any batches that fail MAPREC are discarded.

The primate neurovirulence assay is not 100% effective as it has failed to detect deliberately-induced test mutations in the polio vaccine [4-5]. MAPREC is considered more sensitive than the primate test [4]. The way is therefore open for the implementation of MAPREC as a full replacement for the primate tests. So, itís doubly unfortunate that the transgenic mouse assay for neurovirulence, which uses more animals and is arguably more severe than even the primate test, has been accepted so rapidly in comparison with MAPREC.

References cited

3. WHO Expert Committee on Biological Standardisation (1999). WHO Technical Report Series 889, forty-eighth report:13.
4. Rezapkin GV et al (1998). Genetic stability of Sabin 1 strain of poliovirus: Implications for quality control of oral poliovirus vaccine. Virology 245:183-187.
5. Rezapkin GV et al (1999). Mutations in Sabin 2 strain of poliovirus and stability of attenuation phenotype. Virology 258:152-160.

Grachev reported the success of the MAPREC in 2001, fully five years prior to FRAMEís advocating using mice. [III] Real time PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) a DNA-based test can also be used. [IV].

Replacing monkeys with an in vitro test that is more accurate is obviously more in keeping with animal protection. Clearly that is what any true animal protection group, or even any group advocating good science would recommend. But what do Bhogal and Combes suggest? Replace the monkeys with mice. I wonder what would make them say that. Could it be because of funding sources?

This is more proof that the Three Rs community, including FRAME, is disingenuous in asking society to regard them as advocates of animals or as scientific experts. They are in fact advocates for the vivisection community that funds many of the organizations promoting the Three Rs. If you find it difficult to believe so-called animal protection groups take money from organizations that promote or profit from vivisection, contact FRAME and their like-minded associates and ask them to provide a list of their corporate funders.


I. Bhogal N, Combes R: The relevance of genetically altered mouse models of human disease. Altern Lab Anim 2006, 34:429-454.

II. Replacing non-human primates.

III. Grachev VP, Karganova GG, Rumyantsev AA, Ivanova OE, Eremeeva TP, Drozdov SG: Evaluation of the new control methods for oral poliomyelitis vaccine. Dev Biol (Basel) 2001, 105:211-217.

IV. Gnanashanmugam D, Falkovitz-Halpern MS, Dodge A, Fang M, Wong LJ, Esparza M, Hammon R, Rivas-Merelles EE, Santos JI, Maldonado Y: Shedding and reversion of oral polio vaccine type 3 in Mexican vaccinees: comparison of mutant analysis by PCR and enzyme cleavage to a real-time PCR assay. J Clin Microbiol 2007, 45:2419-2425.

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