Animal Models Remain Vital For COVID-19 Research

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Despite activists’ rhetoric that animal models are not necessary for the advancement of biomedical research and development,  the criticality of the continued use of animal models in biomedical research is highlighted by Americans for Medical Progress and the Foundation for Biomedical Research (see respectively, AMP’s COVID-19 Resources The Critical Role of Animals in Developing COVID-19 Treatments and Vaccines and the Foundation for Biomedical Research and FBR’s COVID-19 Resources-We’re committed to improving health through education .

As stated on FBR’s website, “[n]early every medicine, medical device, surgical procedure and therapy we have today has depended on animal testing and research. Animal research is one of the first steps in medical discovery . . . Contrary to the claims of animal rights groups, animal models have been and will continue to be crucial to medical development and public health.”

AMP’s website includes links to multiple articles that describe the importance of animal models in COVID 19 research, including, e.g., Scientific American : New Coronavirus Drug Shows Promise in Animal Tests; WLBZ TV : Maine lab genetically modifies mice for COVID-19 research; ABC News : Louisiana researchers studying monkeys for a coronavirus vaccine face challenges as state cases spike; and The Mercury News: I know lab animals are crucial in finding a COVID-19 vaccine.

As we appear to be nearing the peak of COVID 19 infection, at least in the northeastern US, there is a continued need to research potential treatments and preventative measures for those not yet infected with the virus.

As we have recently learned, at least large cats appear to be susceptible to infection with COVID 19, according to colleagues at the Bronx Zoo and as confirmed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL).

However, most animal health professionals believe that the potential for spread to humans from pets, or even most zoo animals, is unlikely.  The tiger and other felids with clinical signs of infection were likely infected by a zoo keeper.  While recommendations include limiting exposure of infected people to their pets, such practices can be difficult to implement if the pet is affectionate.  Best to keep other people away from pets exposed to COVID-19, at least while the owner is still symptomatic.

In the meantime, veterinarians have been designated essential personnel and are working diligently to provide needed medical care to their patients, while endeavoring to minimize exposure of staff and pet owners to the virus.  

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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