Animals Are Good

cures await discovery. Although the list is pretty much endless, here are some examples, by decade, including the main species used that were crucial to the discovery:
Pre-1900: Treatment for rabies (dogs, rabbits), smallpox (cows), anthrax (sheep).
1900s: Cardiac catheterization techniques (dogs, rabbits), treatment for rickets (dogs).
1920s: Discovery of insulin (dogs).
1930s: Development of modern anesthesia (dogs), prevention of tetanus (horses), development of anticoagulants (cats).
1940s: Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (rabbits, monkeys), discovery of the RH factor (monkeys), prevention of diptheria (horses), antibiotics (rats, mice, rabbits, etc), treatment for whooping cough (pigs and rabbits).
1950s: Prevention of polio (rabbits, monkeys, rodents), discovery of DNA (rats and mice), development of open-heart surgery and pacemaker (dogs), development of cancer chemotherapy (monkeys, rabbits and rodents).
1960s: Development of lithium treatment (rats and guinea pigs), prevention of rubella (monkeys).
1970s: Prevention of measles (monkeys), treatment for leprosy (monkeys, armadillos), heart bypass surgery (dogs).
1980s: Development of monoclonal antibodies for treating diseases (mice, rabbits), organ transplant advances (dogs, sheep, cows and pigs).
1990s: Laproscopic surgical techniques (pigs), breast cancer genetic and environmental links (fruit flies, mice and rats), gene therapy for cystic fibrosis (mice and primates).
It is often hard to conceptualize the impact of a disease once a vaccine has been developed and it is no longer a threat. Likewise, it is often difficult for young and healthy people who aren’t exposed to as much risk, and who accordingly haven’t had the misfortune to experience a life-threatening or painful disease, to see that the use of animals in research was and is crucial to ensuring their health and others’ health. Even before a vaccination against a disease is developed, what can be learned through research using animals about the nature of transmission and specific susceptibility factors associated with the disease can help reduce or prevent exposure.
One specific example is the Hepatitis B virus (HBV), which infects about 240,000 people each year in the United States. This infection can lead to severe illness, liver cancer and death (for further info, visit http://www.immunize.org). HBV is found in blood, saliva and serous fluid of infected individuals. For adults, the primary mode of transmission is sexual.
People who have risk factors for HIV infection are also at risk for HBV. However, HBV is even more infectious than HIV; HBV particles can exist on an environmental surface for up to seven days and still remain infectious. In 1982, the hepatitis B vaccine was licensed by the Food and Drug Administration for use in humans. The vaccine is now recommended by the American Academy for Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the U.S. Public Health Service for all children, health care workers and persons in other risk groups. Animal research (specifically using guinea pigs and primates) was critical for the safety and efficacy trials that enabled development of this vaccine for use in humans.
This is a clear, direct and recent example of the contributions that animal research has made to human health. Often, there are attempts by members of the animal rights community to discount many of these discoveries as independent of the use of animals. One example is the development of a vaccine against polio. The claim is that research using animals misled scientists and delayed the development of the vaccine, supposedly because of species incompatibility.
It is true that the Nobel Prize-winning work of Enders, Robbins and Weller in cultivating the polio vaccine in 1949 was grown in human tissue culture. However, this experiment was based on information from previous animal research (monkeys and rodents), used animal serum to grow the human cell cultures (ox serum) and was demonstrated to be successful by injection of the virus and the vaccine into mice and monkeys.
When asked in 1998 about whether or not animal research was important to the discovery, Robbins stated, “Far from misleading us, animals led us to the truth and made possible the eventual solution.” This is illustrative of the power of comparative research across species and of the nature of scientific discovery itself. Often animal rights activists claim that since humans and mice and monkeys are different (actually, most animals used in research have greater than 90 percent genetic similarity to humans), the findings in studies that use animals are invalid.
However, what they might not be aware of is the interconnectedness of all biological systems in their basic function, as well as dysfunction. It is this interconnectedness that makes scientific inquiry and the eventual solutions possible.
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