CDC's Animal Research Fact Sheet
Are CDC scientists currently engaged in scientific research involving animals, and, if so, why?
Yes. CDC scientists are engaged in biomedical/scientific research involving the use of animals. This research is conducted to advance the knowledge needed to improve the health and well-being of all humans. CDC conducts this vital animal research to better understand the biology of, identify treatments for, and ultimately prevent the many viral, mycotic, bacterial, and other pathogenic diseases that threaten populations worldwide.
In what areas of research does CDC use laboratory animals?
The majority of CDC's laboratory animals are involved in infectious disease biomedical research in the areas of virology, bacteriology, mycology, immunology, and parasitology.
What animals are used at CDC and how are they cared for?
CDC houses non-human primates, rabbits, mice, guinea pigs, and ferrets, among others. Approximately 53 employees in the Animal Resources Branch, including five full-time veterinarians and animal technicians, are charged with caring for these animals.
Can CDC point to any specific, verifiable benefits of its animal research?
CDC's research has led to numerous advances resulting in people living healthier and longer lives than ever before. These include, but are not limited to:
- development and evaluation of vaccines, treatments, and new diagnostic tests for hepatitis
- better understanding of the transmissibility of influenza
- licensure of the first DNA vaccine, used to protect horses and condors from West Nile virus
- significant enhancement of a clinical trial underway in the US and Africa of an antiretroviral drug in which it was determined that a more potent drug regimen (with an acceptable safety profile) will work for pre-exposure treatment to repeatedly prevent sexual transmission of an HIV-like virus
- evaluation of the effectiveness of an Ebola vaccine (developed at NIH)
- evaluation of the effectiveness of smallpox interventions (in collaboration with the Department of Defense)
Doesn't CDC have alternatives to the use of animals in research?
Sometimes, yes, but frequently, no. "Alternative methods" such as mathematical models, computer simulations, and in vitro biological systems are sometimes available and should always be considered. CDC researchers, like investigators everywhere, are guided by the principle of "the three Rs"—replacement, reduction, and refinement—which attempts to avoid the use of animals by utilizing advances in technology. Whenever possible, new methodologies are used to avoid the use of animals, reduce the number of animals required to attain the intended results, or lessen the impact on the animals. To this can be added a "fourth R"—responsibility—the recognition and the total acceptance of responsible searching for alternatives, responsible experimental design, responsible use, and responsible care.
However, the search for an alternative will, at times, be a dead end. In simple terms, animal research will be always be required. Some research must be conducted in the context of a living biological system. Even the most sophisticated technology cannot mimic the complex cellular interactions that occur in a living system.
If CDC must conduct animal research, what systems are in place to ensure appropriate care and use of animals?
CDC research is conducted with a commitment to use only those animals that are required and, when required, to use these animals with recognition of their sentience and accommodations made for their social and health needs. Animal care and research at CDC are overseen by an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) unique to each facility where such research takes place (Atlanta, Fort Collins, and Morgantown). Further, CDC seeks voluntary accreditation annually from the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC). CDC has been accredited by AAALAC continuously since 1967.