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    Negra's caretakers describe her as socially isolated and withdrawn, and she assumed a depressed, hunched posture, much like you’d see in humans with depression.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

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora