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Overview of Animals in Scientific Research Fact Sheet


Animal Research
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CDC Acts to Preserve Accreditation - Animal Care and Use Program Undergoes Serious Scrutiny

Statement from the Director: CDC Animal Care and Use

Animal Research at CDC: Achieving a Delicate Balance

Fact Sheet: Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)

Fact Sheet: CDC's Animal Research

Fact Sheet: Overview of Animals in Scientific Research

Frequently Asked Questions

December 21, 2005, Letter to AAALAC

Notes for Jan. 2006 CDC Meeting with AAALAC

February 10, 2006 Letter to CDC from AAALAC

Is the use of animals in biomedical research really necessary today?

Research involving animals has played a vital role in virtually every major medical advance of the last century. Even today, there is no complete alternative to biomedical research with animals.

Is it true that most research involves non-human primates?

No. The vast majority of research animals are mice and rats bred for this purpose. Dogs, cats, and non-human primates together account for less than one-half of one percent of the total, and this number has declined for more than 25 years. Since 1979, the number of dogs and cats needed in animal research has declined by more than 50%. The number of non-human primates needed represents less than .2% (.18% in 2004) and has remained relatively constant—in the 50,000 per year range—for the past decade.

Are there any accepted standards in place to safeguard laboratory animals and limit their use?

Yes, absolutely. Here is a brief overview:

Don’t the animals used in research experience considerable pain and distress?

No, not necessarily. The 2004 USDA Annual Report reveals that 57% of all research procedures with animals involved no more than slight or momentary pain or distress (i.e., an injection). In 34% of research procedures anesthesia and postoperative painkillers were used. In 9% of the procedures, neither anesthesia nor pain medication could be used, as they would have interfered with research results.

Historically, what have been the tangible benefits of animal research?

The list of medical advances achieved through animal research is extensive. Here is a partial listing, courtesy of the Foundation for Biomedical Research, which indicates the specific advance, the year in which it was made, and the type(s) of animal involved:

Year Advance (type of animal)
1796 Vaccine for smallpox developed (Cow)
1881 Vaccine for anthrax developed (Sheep)
1885 Vaccine for rabies developed (Dog, Rabbit)
1902 Malarial life cycle discovered (Pigeon)*
1905 Pathogenesis of tuberculosis discovered (Cow, Sheep)*
1919 Mechanisms of immunity discovered (Guinea Pig, Horse, Rabbit)*
1921 Insulin discovered (Dog, Fish)*
1928 Pathogenesis of typhus discovered (Guinea Pig, Rat, Mouse)*
1929 Vitamins supporting nerve growth discovered (Chicken)*
1932 Function of neurons discovered (Cat, Dog)*
1933 Vaccine for tetanus developed (Horse)
1939 Anticoagulants developed (Cat)
1942 The Rh factor discovered (Monkey)
1943 Vitamin K discovered (Rat, Dog, Chick, Mouse)*
1945 Penicillin tested (Mouse)*
1954 Polio vaccine developed (Mouse, Monkey)*
1956 Open heart surgery and cardiac pacemakers developed (Dog)
1964 Regulation of cholesterol Discovered (Rat)*
1968 Rubella vaccine developed (Monkey)
1970 Lithium approved (Rat, Guinea Pig)
1973 Animal social and behavior patterns discovered (Bee, Fish, Bird)*
1975 Interaction between tumor viruses and genetic material discovered (Monkey, Horse, Chicken, Mouse)*
1982 Treatment for leprosy developed (Armadillo)
1984 Monoclonal antibodies developed (Mouse)*
1990 Organ transplantation techniques advanced (Dog, Sheep, Cow, Pig)*
1992 Laproscopic surgical techniques advanced (Pig)
1995 Gene transfer for cystic fibrosis developed (Mouse, Non-Human Primate)
1997 Prions discovered and characterized (Hamster, Mouse)*
1998 Nitric oxide as signaling molecule in cardiovascular system discovered (Rabbit)*
2000 Brain signal transduction discovered (Mouse, Rat, Sea Slug)*
2002 Mechanism of cell death discovered (Worm)*
2003 Non-invasive imaging methods (MRI) for medical diagnosis developed (Clam, Rat)*
* Denotes Nobel Prize winning work

For more on the need for biomedical research using animals, see and

Page last modified: 11/16/2006