Replacing Dogs And Cats In Infection Experiments
The “Three Rs” of animal research state that, wherever possible, scientists should work to reduce the number of animals used in experiments, they should refine experiment design to be less painful or use fewer animals, and finally that they should replace animals in experiments wherever possible. One of the most common ailments that companion animals deal with is infection by parasites and worms. However, to study such infections – and anthelmintics, the medicines that can cure them – dogs and cats in experiments need to be infected themselves, and often they are killed and examined by necropsy to gather data. In an effort to reconcile the Three Rs with research on anthelmintics, scientists have been looking into various ways data can be gathered without using animals and killing them.
The researchers evaluate various ways that alternative procedures can be done, and one of the more interesting points in their analysis is that “laboratory conditions do not always reflect clinical scenarios of natural infections”; though current guidelines do allow non-laboratory or “field trials” to be used under some circumstances, it is limited. Still, the fact that field trials are sufficient in some cases means that experimental trials in labs are “not strictly necessary.” Field studies that comply with current guidelines can be performed in different geographical areas, on different animal populations, and even targeting different parasitic subpopulations. In other words, if conducted right, field trials can examine data in a way that is much broader than laboratory trials.
For both companion animal advocates and research animal advocates, the conclusions of the study should be cause for celebration. The researchers here advocate for an increased emphasis on field studies, a decrease in requiring experimental studies that infect dogs and cats in labs, and using scientifically valid diagnostic tests that can replace necropsies. In other words, the paper offers a resounding and emphatic suggestion that using dogs and cats in this type of research, in a laboratory setting, is unnecessary scientifically, and thus wrong ethically.