Take a Look into Zika Research in a Primate Lab

Because of the nature of their work and the threats to their security from terrorists and animal rights extremists, many labs around the world conducting important animal research are very cautious about allowing outsiders inside for a visit. Until now. The reporters at STAT have just provided the public an insider’s view of work being conducted at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in the race to defeat one of the world’s most fearful viruses: Zika.

Yesterday’s report highlights the urgent speed at which researchers, with primates, are rushing to find a vaccine for the Zika virus. Time is of the essence and these critical protocols are being fast-tracked to learn everything there is to know about Zika. Readers are introduced to the safety precautions, enrichment stimulants, and a first-hand description of the procedures involved in these protocols. If you’ve ever wanted to step into a primate lab, yesterday’s article in STAT will give you a very well detailed and explained experience.

Please take a moment to read yesterday’s article about this very important research and please share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and on social media.

Researchers Hope Studies with Monkeys Yield Vaccines for HIV, Other Viruses

The mythical opening of Pandora’s box resulted in the release of diseases, many of which science has conquered and found new and innovative treatments to manage them.  Once of great concern, Polio, Measles, Typhoid fever, and Yellow fever, are now no longer worrisome due in part to medical achievements with nonhuman primates (NHP).  But a great deal of work remains and researchers at NABR’s 380 institutional members continue to strive to find a vaccines to eradicate HIV and other infectious diseases.

Highlighting this research was a posting by the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) explaining the irreplaceable role that monkeys play in scientific discovery.  They alone mirror the biological process of infections in humans because of their similar genetic make-up.  Being 98% genetically similar to humans makes them uniquely suited for these critical studies.  While there is currently no cure for HIV, the virus can be managed by a “drug cocktail” of antiretroviral therapy (ART) medicines.  This is certainly something to be proud of but researchers haven’t quit the hunt for a vaccine to prevent the spread of the HIV virus.  In fact, researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) will be taking an exciting HIV vaccine, developed and tested with NHP’s, to clinical trials in humans soon.

Please take a moment to read FBR’s posting and to share your thoughts in the comment section.  Also, please share this report with your friends, family, colleagues, and on social media to help communicate the vital importance that animal models still play in biomedical research and testing.

Congress Moves on Zika Funding

The U.S. Senate voted decisively last week in favor of a bipartisan $1.1 billion measure to combat the Zika virus this year and next, cutting back President Barack Obama’s request from $1.9 billion, but offering significantly more money to fight Zika than the U.S. House.  For its part, the House approved an emergency appropriations measure providing limited funds – less than a third of what was requested – only through the end of this fiscal year (September 30, 2016), as described in this Science news report. Florida Governor Rick Scott has urged Congress to pass a Zika funding bill, according to the Miami Herald.  And a May 17 Boston Globe editorial headline said Funding to Fight Zika Shouldn’t Wait. The challenging negotiations ahead for Congress and the White House to resolve the question are described here by the Washington Times.

The fact that animal research is critical to understanding the Zika virus and finding a vaccine has been part of the public discussion.  In a Newsweek op-ed, FBR President Frankie Trull explained how primate research is key to finding a Zika vaccine.  Also, three studies showing the Zika virus causes microcephaly in mice embryos are discussed in these May 11 reports in The Scientist and the Los Angeles TimesCNN and the BBC have broadcast news stories acknowledging the contributions of animal studies to Zika research.

FBR President Explains How Primates are Key to Zika Vaccine Development in Newsweek Op-Ed

Every day we hear more and more about the dangerous impact of the Zika virus and thanks to animal research and testing, science is learning more about the infection and what can be done to stop its spread.  Last week Newsweek featured a submission from Frankie Trull, President of the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR), discussing the role of one specific species in the rush to find a vaccine to the Zika virus: nonhuman primates (NHP).  In the piece titled, “Zika Virus Vaccine Possible with Help of Primate Research,” Ms. Trull makes it clear to the public that primates will play an influential, if not irreplaceable, part in annihilating the ongoing spread of Zika.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has confirmed that the virus causes microcephaly, whereby babies are born with noticeably smaller heads and underdeveloped brains.  Scientists have also established a link between the virus and meningoencephalitis, a deadly type of brain inflammation, as well as Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disease that impairs muscle performance and can lead to paralysis.

Researchers are studying pregnant primates and sharing their data in real-time to examine how different strains of Zika behave in animal models.  Computer models and cell cultures cannot provide an accurate depiction of the virus in living tissue and thusly animal models are engaged to ensure human safety.  As researcher Dr. Koen Van Rompay notes in the piece, "When we study how the virus affects monkeys, it's very predictive of how it affects people and that information enables us to develop vaccines to fight it."

Please click here to read the piece in Newsweek and learn more about primates in Zika research.  Feel free to share your thoughts and concerns in the comments section at the bottom of the article.  As we have noted before, it is important to share your pro-research perspective.  Please also feel free to share the article with your friends, family, colleagues, and on social media.