Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1822/22088

TitleHow “humane” is your endpoint? — Refining the science-driven approach for termination of animal studies of chronic infection
Author(s)Franco, Nuno
Neves, Margarida Correia
Olsson, Anna
KeywordsAnimal welfare
Tuberculosis
Mouse models of infection
Euthanasia
Humane endpoint
Issue dateJan-2012
PublisherPublic Library of Science
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Abstract(s)Public concern on issues such as animal welfare or the scientific validity and clinical value of animal research is growing, resulting in increasing regulatory demands for animal research. Abiding to the most stringent animal welfare standards, while having scientific objectives as the main priority, is often challenging. To do so, endpoints of studies involving severe, progressive diseases need to be established considering how early in the disease process the scientific objectives can be achieved. We present here experimental studies of tuberculosis (TB) in mice as a case study for an analysis of present practice and a discussion of how more refined science-based endpoints can be developed. A considerable proportion of studies in this field involve lethal stages, and the establishment of earlier, reliable indicators of disease severity will have a significant impact on animal welfare. While there is an increasing interest from scientists and industry in moving research in this direction, this is still far from being reflected in actual practice. We argue that a major limiting factor is the absence of data on biomarkers that can be used as indicators of disease severity. We discuss the possibility of complementing the widely used weight loss with other relevant biomarkers and the need for validation of these parameters as endpoints. Promotion of ethical guidelines needs to be coupled with systematic research in order to develop humane endpoints beyond the present euthanasia of moribund animals. Such research, as we propose here for chronic infection, can show the way for the development and promotion of welfare policies in other fields of research. Research on chronic infection relies heavily on the use of animals, as only the integral animal body can model the full aspect of an infection. That animals are generally made to develop a disease in infection studies exacerbates the tension between human benefit and animal well-being, which characterizes all biomedical research with animals. Scientists typically justify animal research with reference to potential human benefits, but if accepting the assumption that human benefits can offset animal suffering, it still needs to be argued that the same benefits could not be achieved with less negative effects on animal welfare. Reducing the animal welfare problems associated with research (“refinement” [1]) is therefore crucial in order to render animal-based research less of an ethical problem and to assure public trust in research. Studies that are designed to measure time of death or survival percentages present a particularly challenging situation in which at least some of the animals are made to die from the disease. These studies are frequent in experimental research on severe infections. The scientific community, industry, and regulatory authorities have responded to the ethical concerns over studies in which animals die from severe disease by developing new policies and guidelines for the implementation of humane endpoints as a key refinement measure (e.g., [2]–[4]). The most widely used definition considers a humane endpoint to be the earliest indicator in an animal experiment of severe pain, severe distress, suffering, or impending death [5], underlining that ideally such indicators should be identified before the onset of the most severe effects. Euthanizing animals, rather than awaiting their “spontaneous” death, is important to avoid unnecessary suffering in studies in which data on survival is thought to be required for scientific or legal reasons. However, several questions remain open regarding how humane endpoints are to be applied to address real animal welfare problems. We used TB experiments in mice as a case study to highlight the potential to establish biomarkers of disease progress that can replace survival time as a measure of disease severity.
TypeJournal editorial
URIhttp://hdl.handle.net/1822/22088
DOI10.1371/journal.ppat.1002399
ISSN1553-7366
Publisher versionhttp://www.plospathogens.org/
Peer-Reviewedyes
AccessOpen access
Appears in Collections:ICVS - Artigos em Revistas Internacionais com Referee

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