The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a division of the Department of Health and Human Services mandated “to promote health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.” The latter portion of this mission involves a wide range of research activities, and, to the extent that such activities are directed at the study and treatment of infectious diseases, extensive animal use as well.
In contrast to other federal agencies, CDC does not promulgate or enforce regulations imposing third party testing or information collection requirements. Instead, CDC operates its own intramural research and testing programs, while also providing substantial funding for extramural research.
Animal Use Activities
CDC reports that its intramural research includes the use of non-human primates, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, and mice, mainly in studies of the pathology and treatment of infectious diseases. Such research takes place within the Scientific Resources Division of CDC’s National Center for Preparedness, Detection, and Control of Infectious Diseases (NCPDCID). For example, NCPDCID has recently reported its involvement in the development and/or testing of vaccines against diseases including anthrax, Ebola, dengue hemorrhagic fever, malaria, and Streptococcus pneumoniae. In such studies, groups of vaccinated and unvaccinated animals may be exposed to several times the lethal dose of a pathogen to evaluate both disease progress as well as the effectiveness of the candidate vaccine.
CDC has received billions in federal appropriations to build and maintain a “strategic national stockpile” of vaccines, antibiotics, and other therapeutic products for use in the event of a bioterrorist attack. This activity is inextricably linked to toxicological testing on animals, which is required under FDA regulations to demonstrate the safety of all new and reformulated drugs, as well as the purity, safety, and potency of each new batch of a vaccine intended for human use.
Alternatives Policies & Actions
CDC’s Animal Research Fact Sheet states: “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…” The statement then strikes a pessimistic note: “However, the search for an alternative will, at times, be a dead end. In simple terms, animal research will be always be required” (emphasis in original).