Posted by Dr Katy Taylor on 18th November 2016
Animals still being exploited in Zika virus research
Pregnant mice subjected to cruel tests
In January, the World Health Organisation declared the Zika virus a global emergency. The virus, which is transmitted by mosquitos, causes a rare birth defect where babies are sadly born with small heads and underdeveloped brains1.
Unfortunately, animals have been made to suffer in cruel research for the disease.
Earlier this year, we spoke out against the cruel plans of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers to infect pregnant monkeys with the Zika virus2. Sadly animals are continuing to be exploited.
The latest example comes from scientists at Yale University who used mice in a cruel experiment to learn more about the sexual transmission of Zika virus3.
The virus was pipetted directly into the vaginas of both virgin and pregnant mice, some of whom were genetically modified to be more vulnerable to the Zika virus. The mice were then subjected to repeat vaginal washes and blood sampling from their eyes for a whole week after being infected.
Some of the mice lost a significant amount of weight and died from the infection. All of the surviving animals were killed and dissected along with their unborn babies.
The scientists admitted that humans are much more susceptible to Zika infection than mice, which casts serious doubt on the relevance of their experiment.
Mosquito control methods have already proven to be a more realistic and effective solution than animal experiments. Trials in Brazil, Panama, Malaysia and the Cayman Islands have found this is an effective way of preventing the spread of Zika virus, as well as yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya4.
- Micocephaly/Zika Virus. (2016). World Health Organisation, 9 Sep: http://www.who.int/emergencies/zika-virus/en/
- Pregnant monkeys to be infected with Zika virus in cruel research. (2016). Cruelty Free International, 17 Feb: https://www.crueltyfreeinternational.org/blog/pregnant-monkeys-be-infected-zika-virus-cruel-research
- Vaginal exposure to Zika virus during pregnancy leads to fetal brain infection. (2016). Cell, 166: 1247-1256. Original article can be found here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27565347
- Oxitec mosquito. (2016). U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 5 Aug: http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/DevelopmentApprovalProcess/GeneticEngineering/GeneticallyEngineeredAnimals/ucm446529.htm