News / USA

Study: Chimps Used in Medical Research Show Signs of Post-Traumatic Stress

Proposed US law would limit experimentation with the primates

Chimpanzees used in medical experiments often experience maternal separation, social isolation and solitary confinement.
Chimpanzees used in medical experiments often experience maternal separation, social isolation and solitary confinement.

Multimedia

Audio

Chimpanzees who've been subjected to invasive laboratory experiments show signs of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD) and other psychiatric disorders seen in traumatized humans, according to a new study by animal welfare activists.

About 1,000 chimpanzees currently live in private and government-run laboratory facilities across the United States, where they are used as subjects for medical experiments.

The study findings, published in the non-profit science journal PLoS ONE, focus new attention on a proposed U.S. law to ban the use of chimpanzees in some types of medical research.

Shedding light

The two-year study examined the cases of more than 350 chimpanzees including former lab chimps now living in sanctuaries and those in the wild.

The study's lead author, Dr. Hope Ferdowsian, directs research policy for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a private group that promotes alternatives to the use of animals in research, education and training.

Ferdowsian undertook the study primarily for ethical reasons.

“Chimpanzees are taken from their mothers at a very early age, sometimes just after they’re born," she says. "Chimpanzees are also forced into isolation many times as a result of being used in Hepatitis and other protocols. So there are clear harms associated with the use of chimpanzees in research, and we wanted to look at exactly how chimpanzees are affected by all the harms that are inflicted upon them over the course of a lifetime.”

Negra's story

In collecting their data, Ferdowsian and her colleagues relied on feedback from the chimps’ caretakers, who - in many cases - had known the animals for years.

One of the subjects was Negra, who spent 30 years as a test subject in biomedical research before being transferred to a chimp sanctuary.  

Negra's caretakers describe her as socially isolated and withdrawn, and she assumed a depressed, hunched posture, much like you’d see in humans with depression.

Negra spent three decades in biomedical research labs. (Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest)

“She walked around with a blanket over her head, really isolating herself from the rest of the world,” says Ferdowsian.

Her study concludes that the behavioral changes Negra and many other chimps exhibited after their laboratory experiences were very similar to those seen in combat veterans suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  

Proposed changes

Ferdowsian supports pending legislation in the U.S. Congress which would phase out experiments on chimpanzees and retire the apes to sanctuaries.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett,  a Maryland Republican, was a scientist before becoming a congressman and is now the main sponsor of "The Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act." He says Ferdowsian’s study confirmed what he already knew.

“That these animals aren’t the usual cow or pig or horse. They really are very different," says Bartlett. "They are primates and they have a huge brain and they have many characteristics similar to humans. It didn’t surprise me, but I was pleased to see the study.”

Foxie was used in hepatitis vaccine research. (Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest)

But some scientists involved in chimp-assisted research challenge the validity of Ferdowsian’s study and the proposed ban.

John VandeBerg, a biomedical researcher and director of the Southwest National Primate Research Center in San Antonio, Texas, finds serious flaws in the study and considers its conclusions invalid.

"The authors appear to have tried to assign a human disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, to these chimpanzees and this syndrome is defined primarily by psychological characteristics such as persistent nightmares, recurrent distressing feelings about the event that they have suffered," says VandeBerg. "Chimpanzees aren’t able to relate to us whether they are having nightmares or recurrent, distressing recollections.”

'Devastating blow'

VandeBerg, who uses chimpanzees in the medical research he conducts at his Texas facility, says the animals are treated humanely.

“We have many chimpanzees here at the Southwest National Primate Research Center that have been here for many decades, who’ve been used in experimental research over many decades. They do not exhibit symptoms of depression, and certainly as I say, there is no way of diagnosing Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.”

VandeBerg says chimpanzee research has led to life-saving medical gains.

“For example, the Hepatitis B vaccine would not have been developed without research with chimpanzees. Hepatitis B vaccine was given to the children in 116 countries of the world. That was a huge medical breakthrough which will save hundreds of millions of human lives.”

Banning the use of chimps in research,  VandeBerg says, will deal a devastating blow to medical research.

But study lead author Ferdowsian insists that there are alternatives for medical research that do not involve using animals, such as computer simulations, cell and tissue cultures, genetic analyses and human population studies.  

And, Ferdowsian says, passage of the Great Ape Protection Act would bring the United States into line with the ethical research standards adopted by other countries.

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Yearsi
X
December 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Years

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid