PETA India Urges Health Ministry to Stop Vaccine Tests on Wild Monkeys, Cautions on Scientific Drawbacks and Health Risks

For Immediate Release:

7 August 2020

Contact:

Dr Dipti Kapoor; [email protected]

Hiraj Laljani ; [email protected]

Group Calls For Modern, Human-Relevant, Animal-Free Testing Methods

Delhi – Following recent reports that the Government of Maharashtra has approved the capture of 30 wild rhesus macaques for the National Institute of Virology (NIV) to use in tests for a COVID-19 vaccine, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India has sent letters,calling on the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Indian Council of Medical Research, and NIV to reverse the misguided decision to allow the monkeys’ capture and use.

In its letter, PETA India outlines the well-established scientific drawbacks of using wild monkeys for experiments, discusses the risk that those who capture or handle the monkeys could contract zoonotic diseases such as Kyasanur forest disease, and highlights the importance of using superior non-animal technology to develop COVID-19 vaccines.

Scientists worldwide are researching and developing COVID-19 treatments using human-relevant, animal-free technology – such as human organoids, organs-on-chips, and supercomputers – since animal tests are often misleading, time-consuming barriers to introducing life-saving drugs. At Gauhati University, researchers are using advanced computer-simulation methods to determine which parts of the virus are best suited to triggering an immune response in humans.

Free-ranging rhesus macaques in Asia, particularly those who are in close contact with humans, have been shown to be infected with picornaviruses, paramyxoviruses, influenza viruses, astroviruses, a variety of enteric pathogens, and enzootic viruses (those that regularly affect animals). The likely presence of these pathogens means that stressed and newly captured monkeys are not specific-pathogen-free, so any experimental data obtained using them cannot be accurately interpreted.

Additionally, SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – apparently cannot mutate and adapt in non-human primate cells in the same way it does in human cells. Even when animals are genetically engineered to make them susceptible to the coronavirus, they show only mild symptoms of COVID-19, and their response to infection differs from that experienced by humans.

“Conducting COVID-19 research using wild monkeys is dangerous, as they’re likely infected with pathogens that will skew the results and put laboratory workers at risk of contracting zoonotic diseases,” says PETA India Science Policy Adviser Dr Dipti Kapoor. “PETA India is asking NIV to develop safe and effective COVID-19 treatments and vaccines using modern, animal-free methods instead of cruel and wasteful animal tests.”

PETA India – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on” – opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETAIndia.com.