Zogby Analytics conducted an online survey of 1,009 adults in the US and found that 64.4 percent of American adults support the use of research monkeys for the development of vaccines to protect against the Ebola virus. Slightly more than 71 percent of men and almost 58 percent of women support the use of non-human primates (NHPs) in Ebola vaccine research.
"NHPs are absolutely critical for Ebola vaccine and therapeutic developments as their immune systems and physiology are the closest of all animals to humans," says Dr. Jean L. Patterson, Chair of Virology and Immunology at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute. "Due to the unethical use of human experimentation in diseases of these sorts, using animals in the Animal Rule Protocols is the only way to move forward with developing a cure to these deadly pathogens."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, the current Ebola epidemic is the largest in history with more than 8,000 laboratory-confirmed cases and almost 5,000 deaths. The CDC recently released a new predictive model for the spread of the deadly virus which suggests in a worst-case scenario up to 1.4 million people could become infected by the end of January.
"Non-human primates are the most accurate model systems to tell us if candidate vaccines will work," says Dr. Erica Ollmann Saphire, Professor of Immunology and Microbial Science at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. "New drugs are first screened in test tubes, then in rodents to weed out the ones that don't work as well, but the last, best test before human trials is often non-human primates."
Biomedical researchers continue their quest to develop both injectable and inhalable vaccines to prevent the transmission of the Ebola virus from person to person. Manufacturing and production could be ramped up quickly -- especially for a breathable vaccine -- if human clinical trials prove to be safe and effective.
"We have an Ebola epidemic now," says Paul McKellips, executive vice president at the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) who commissioned the Zogby poll. "But if we cave to pockets of public pressure being triggered by animal rights groups, we could be facing a pandemic by January, if CDC models are even close. Many Americans have been led to believe laboratory animals are no longer needed to develop treatments and cures for both people and animals. Despite the claims of those who oppose animal research, Ebola underscores the essential role of animal models, especially monkeys, in the development of medicines to save lives."
Oversight of animal research in the United States is strictly governed by multiple regulatory bodies. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) enforces the regulations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, and federally-sponsored research programs are approved and monitored by the National Institutes of Health.
"The US Food and Drug Administration requires that potential vaccines, drugs and therapies are proven safe and effective in at least two species before moving to human clinical trials," says Matt Bailey, executive vice president at the National Association for Biomedical Research. "Beyond regulations, the majority of institutions conducting animal research in the US voluntarily submit to a rigorous accreditation process performed by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International."
The Zogby Analytics poll was conducted on October 28 and 29, 2014 and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.