Posted by Dr Katy Taylor on 21st October 2016
End the use of animals in antibody tests
Countless animals are suffering despite the availability of a reliable alternative
Scientists from Europe and Canada are calling for an end to the cruel use of animals in antibody production tests and have proposed a plan to help implement these changes.1,2
Antibodies are used in a wide array of tests that range from over-the-counter pregnancy kits, to recreational drug tests, and tests to diagnose specific diseases. But to generate these antibodies, animals are repeatedly injected with a substance that stimulates the immune system to produce specific antibodies.
Sadly, the animals often suffer from harmful side effects as a result of these injections, before they are eventually killed to extract the desired antibodies.
In 2013, 9,552 animals were used in the UK to produce antibodies. (Due to a change in how animal testing numbers are reported, it is no longer possible to determine how many animals are used for this purpose in the UK or across the rest of Europe.)
Instead of using animals in the production of antibodies, they can be grown inside viruses and yeasts using sophisticated DNA technology that produces better functioning antibodies than those made in animals.
Dr. Alison Gray from the University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, said: “The ultimate aim of scientists in this field should be to replace the use of animals in research and industry but due to a lack of awareness about this technology, this is not happening fast enough. ”.3
Dr. Gray and her colleagues have proposed a seven-point action plan to help end the use of animals in antibody production tests across Europe. The steps include:
- Replace animal methods for antibody production with the non-animal alternative in all EU countries
- Set up an expert working group to help plan the EU’s move away from the animal test
- Ensure that antibody manufacturers outside the EU adhere to the same standards before they are allowed to import their products into EU countries
- Implement programs to make sure that antibody producers using the non-animal method are fully supported
- Require all EU countries to report the number of animals they use in antibody tests in all future statistics reports
It is unacceptable that animals continue to suffer and die every year throughout Europe in tests where there are already valid and humane alternatives. According to EU law, where alternatives to animal tests exist they should be used, so this cruel animal test should not be allowed to continue.
We fully support the proposed action plan to see an end to this redundant test and call on laboratories in the EU and beyond to stop these tests now and embrace modern more effective ways of producing antibodies.
- Animal-based antibodies: Obsolete. (2016). Science, 353(6298): 452-453. Original article can be found here: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/353/6298/452.2?sso=1&sso_redirect_count=1&oauth-code=cd575886-e8d6-4c07-9441-0877daf14508
- Animal-friendly affinity reagents: Replacing the needless in the haystack. (2016). Trends in Biotechnology, DOI: 10.1016/j.tibtech.2016.05.017. Original article can be found here: http://www.cell.com/trends/biotechnology/fulltext/S0167-7799(16)30063-4
- Scientists call for replacement of animals in antibody production. (2016). Lab Manager, 22 July: http://www.labmanager.com/news/2016/07/scientists-call-for-replacement-of-animals-in-antibody-production?fw1pk=2#.V7s8Y2wUWhe