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Animal use and Covid-19 research

Researchers have highlighted the critical role that animals played in Covid-19 research in Germany.

The team at the German Centre for the Protection of Laboratory Animals (Bf3R) showed that between February 2020 and July 2021, 61,389 animals from seven different species (ferrets, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, monkeys, pigs and rats) were used, with mice (90%) and hamsters (7%) being the most used in both basic research and vaccine development.

“This colossal success of science rests in large part on the shoulders of animals that were used in basic and pre-clinical research and regulatory testing”, said the report published in Embo Reports.

To measure the numbers of animals used, in 102 studies approved by the German authorities, the report analysed non-technical summaries (NTS) - short project descriptions written by research teams to explain their work to a non-expert audience.

The low number (38) of monkeys reported, led the authors to suggest that tight regulations on primate use in the EU may mean that ‘experiments were performed elsewhere to expedite critical studies’, such as some BioNTech vaccine studies being conducted in the US.

And commenting on the reason for compiling the report, the authors said: “The recent SARS-CoV-2 pandemic provides an opportunity to replace disinformation and allow for a constructive debate on the importance of animals in research.”

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