Animal experiments conducted at Eastern Virginia Medical School were found to have committed two critical violations of the Animal Welfare Act in a federal inspection in January.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Inspection Service found that animal research at the Norfolk facility did not humanely care for the animals throughout the testing process and that the process deviated from the testing proposals previously approved, according to the report, which is publicly available. on the USDA website. Animal research is monitored and approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of the National Institutes of Health.
Four female chinchillas, a type of South American rodent, lost between 25% to 30% of their body weight and were kept in the tests, although they had to be removed if they lost more than 20% of their body weight. Three chinchillas were noted to arrive at EVMS on February 19, 2020, and two were euthanized and one died months later on September 7, while the fourth was euthanized on October 18, 2021, according to the report.
In a recent anesthesia study, monkey testing deviated from approved plans as two were over the maximum testing age of 23 years, five females were underweight, two monkeys were given sweetened drinks for 7.5 months when they were only supposed to receive them for three to six months . Six monkeys were also injected with extra insulin and sugar and had blood taken more often than authorized, according to the report.
“The facility failed to use appropriate methods to prevent, control and diagnose medical problems arising from the administration of IV insulin, ultimately leading to the death of one animal and hours of unexplained low blood glucose levels in others,” according to part of the report.
The inspection was carried out on January 12, according to the report.
The violations in the report are some of the worst cases that Michael Budkie of the anti-animal testing group Stop Animal Exploitation Now said he has seen in more than three decades.
Budkie said the penalties are still relatively low for such institutions, meaning they don’t end up having a “meaningful impact.” APHIS moves to enforce if it finds that scientists have not made the necessary corrections after an inspection, according to the USDA.
“Therefore, warning the general public and disclosing what is happening in these facilities is as important as any legal action the USDA would take,” he said. “Because research facilities, we’ve found, value their public reputation.”
PETA has filed a complaint against EVMS with the National Institutes of Health, advocating that the institution no longer receive funding from the federal agency, which provided $7. million to EVMS last year.
The January federal report required the medical school to change the issues by Feb. 16, according to the report. Both investigations were completed by that date, according to a statement from EVMS.
EVMS was contracted to provide the facilities for chinchilla research, the statement said. EVMS did not release the name of the Richmond business Wednesday or Thursday.
“COVID restrictions limited access to the facilities where the animals were housed and hampered the ability to conduct research as dictated by the research protocol,” the response said. “The company was not responsive to repeated inquiries; however, in the meantime, EVMS veterinary care staff continued to monitor the animals to assess their general well-being. When COVID restrictions were lifted, the company ended the study and the research project has been closed by EVMS.”
In the monkey testing, according to EVMS, the researcher was unable to obtain monkeys in the age and size range that he had previously submitted for approval. Monkeys outside the age range protocols were found but otherwise met the experimental parameters and the researcher did not inform the monitoring committee.
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“Two staff veterinarians monitored and cared for the animals during the research period, although all medical interventions were not fully documented. Although some animals took longer than expected to recover from anesthesia and blood glucose levels were not recorded, the veterinarians consulted with the investigator regularly regarding the animals’ medical status and treated the animals as they deemed appropriate within the limits of what was medically allowed without adversely aggravating their clinical status,” the statement said. “Unfortunately, not all the animals responded to the treatment.”
Budkie and other anti-animal testing groups have said that animal testing is ineffective compared to other modern drug testing techniques.
“When you add to that that facilities such as [EVMS] not even following their own approved protocols, that makes this experimentation scientific nonsense,” he said. “And the scientific world and the general public would be much better served if facilities like EVMS used much more advanced technology such as organ on a chip technology, which is based on human tissue as opposed to something that happens on a guinea pig or a chinchilla. or even a non-human primate.”
EVMS said the IACUC, which approves animal research protocols, is now advising EVMS researchers.
Animal tests are conducted by researchers to determine the safety of a new product and are sometimes decided after other options for finding out a product’s safety have been ruled out, according to the US Food and Drug Administration. The federal administration also believes that companies should consider all other options before deciding on animal testing.
“Furthermore, in all cases where animal testing is used, the FDA recommends that research and testing derive the maximum amount of useful scientific information from the minimum number of animals and use the most humane methods available within the limits of scientific capacity,” FDA website said.
Ian Munro, 757-447-4097, [email protected]