Non-human primate use in medical research
Between 100,000 and 200,000 non-human primates (NHPs)are used worldwide each year for preclinical research and testing. Around two thirds of these animals are Old World monkeys (mainly macaques) and around 10 per cent are apes that are used in live experiments or as a source of research tissues.
The US, UK, France, Germany and Japan account for the use of most of these animals, and this aligns closely with the level of pharmaceutical research and vaccine development in these countries.
This level of NHP usage is disconcerting from an animal welfare perspective. A number of recent reports suggest primate experimentation also raises false hopes and assurances as to the efficacy and safety of many treatments and prophylactics developed as a consequence of using these species during the preclinical phase.
Even though our closest evolutionary relations – chimpanzees and bonobos – are 99.1 per cent identical to humans when the protein encoding genomes are compared, studies suggest that the slight genetic differences greatly reduce the physiological significance of NHPs as models of humans.
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Archived 8 March 2010