British journals explore link between animal, human health
Avian influenza had yet to steal the stage last spring when two bio-medical journals began planning joint issues about the relationship between animal and human health.
But the British Veterinary Association’s journal, The Veterinary Record, and the British Medical Journal completed the project at a time when animal-human health connections couldn’t be clearer—to the public or to the medical professions.
The veterinary journal’s Nov. 26 issue explored emerging zoonotic epidemics such as avian influenza, the distribution of strains of Salmonella and Staphylococcus, and the role of veterinarians in food safety. Articles also addressed collaboration between the human and veterinary medical professions, education in both disciplines, and therapeutic applications of the bond between people and companion animals.
The Nov. 26 issue of the BMJ examined many of the same topics—as well as emerging wildlife diseases, zoonoses as agents of bioterrorism, risk assessment, and pathogen eradication. Other subjects included comparative medicine, ethical challenges, the connection between human health and nature conservation, therapy with dolphins for the treatment of depression, and synergy between public health and veterinary services in developing countries. Articles also addressed specific zoonotic diseases ranging from sleeping sickness, or African trypanosomiasis, to avian influenza.
Assistant editors Graham Easton MD, and Birte Twisselmann, PhD, of the BMJ hosted a Web chat on Dec. 1 about the joint issues. Participants included contributors, epidemiologists, medical students, animal activists, and other readers from as far away as India and South Africa. Discussion focused on promoting partnerships between human and veterinary medicine, with commentary about the human-animal bond and animal welfare.
European industry groups have agreed to work with the government to support alternatives to animal testing.
At the end of last year, industry groups and the European Commission released a declaration establishing a voluntary European Partnership to Promote Alternative Approaches to Animal Testing. Participants will contribute to an annual action program of short-, medium-, and long-term activities and responsibilities starting early this year.
In particular, the action program will help coordinate research and strategies for alternatives to animal testing—and facilitate the validation and regulatory acceptance of new approaches.
According to the most recent EC figures, Europe uses about 10.7 million animals per year for testing. More than 60 percent of animal testing in 2002 was for research and development in human medicine, veterinary medicine, dentistry, and fundamental biology studies; about 16 percent was for production and quality control of products and devices in human medicine, veterinary medicine, and dentistry; and about 10 percent was for toxicologic and other safety evaluation.
An EC directive already requires industry to apply available methods to replace, reduce, and refine animal tests. The EC initiated the new partnership with industry to accelerate the process.
The University of Oxford has resumed the construction of a new biomedical research facility—a year after receiving an injunction against animal welfare activists to protect contractors and members of the academic community.
Oxford halted work on the laboratory in July 2004 and applied for the injunction not long afterward.
The November 2004 injunction includes provisions for small weekly protests, with the possibility for activists to apply to the police to hold more or larger protests.
Oxford resumed work on the research building in November 2005. The project is part of a program of replacing and updating laboratory space, according to the university, and its construction will result in the closure of a number of existing animal facilities.
Scientists have completed sequencing the DNA of another animal—this time, man’s best friend.
In December, researchers published the genome of the dog in the journal Nature. The Broad Institute, a collaboration of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, led the $30 million project to sequence DNA covering almost 99 percent of the dog genome.
The DNA sequence, from a female Boxer, then served as a map for navigating the genomes of 10 dog breeds, and canine cousins such as the coyote and gray wolf. The comparison turned up 2.5 million single nucleotide polymorphisms, tiny variations in the genetic code, within the dog genome.
Breeding dogs to preserve their desirable traits has predisposed many breeds to genetic diseases. Yet the analysis revealed that dog breeds still share large segments of DNA, despite diverse physical characteristics.
The study also found a common set of genetic elements among the dog, mouse, and human amounting to approximately 5 percent of the human genome.
The project was part of the Large-Scale Sequencing Research Network through the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health.
The NHGRI released the first draft of the dog genome in 2004, after another group produced a partial DNA sequence from a male Poodle in 2003. The NHGRI also released first drafts of the chimpanzee, honeybee, chicken, and bovine genome sequences in 2003 and 2004.
Other work in progress includes the genome sequence for the rabbit, shrew, hedgehog, armadillo, elephant, cat, platypus, opossum, bat, bush baby, guinea pig, squirrel, wallaby, orangutan, marmoset, and macaque—as well as numerous insects, fungi, and aquatic creatures.
Chimpanzee breeding moratorium extended
The National Center for Research Resources has extended the moratorium on the breeding of federally supported or owned chimpanzees used for biomedical research until December 2007.
A division of the National Institutes of Health, the NCRR oversees some 850 chimpanzees currently used or held for biomedical research, the eight National Primate Research Centers, and the national chimpanzee sanctuary system.
The Chimpanzee Management Plan Working Group recommended continuation of the breeding moratorium during a presentation to the NARRC in September. The working group concluded that chimpanzees remain crucial for hepatitis C and respiratory syncytial virus investigations and could become necessary for undefined future studies. Additionally, some U.S. facilities house many underutilized chimpanzees that could meet the need for federally funded research.
Still, the working group says there is a need to assess the current chimpanzee colony and research demands, and the costs associated with housing and caring for the primates, as well as a decreasing demand for chimpanzees in research resulting from their poor suitability for HIV research.
NIH requests information on care of laboratory animals
The National Institutes of Health is exploring the need to update its Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.
The NIH first published the guide in 1963—with revisions in 1965, 1968, 1972, 1978, 1985, and 1996. The guide assists institutions in caring for and using animals in ways that are scientifically, technically, and humanely appropriate.
The NIH is seeking new scientific information that might warrant a revision of the 1996 guide, particularly on these topics:
• the macro- and microenvironment of animal facilities
• housing for laboratory animals—including space, temperature and humidity, ventilation, acoustics, and illumination
• structural and social environment of animals
• husbandry, sanitation, and pest control
• disease and disease manifestations in laboratory animals
• population management of genetically modified animals
• physical plant standards
• the topics listed in Appendix A, Selected Bibliography, of the 1996 guide
Parties, individuals, or organizations may submit the following:
• articles or citations for articles published in reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journals since the development of the 1996 guide
• science-based information or scientific principles concerning the humane care and use of laboratory animals developed and widely accepted by the research community and not addressed in the 1996 guide
• newly published, science-based standards for animal environment, housing, management, and structural design not cited in the 1996 guide
The deadline for responses is Feb. 28. Respondents should identify submissions with RFI No. NOT-OD-06-011 and send three copies to Margaret Snyder, Director, Office of Scientific Affairs, Office of Extramural Research, OD, NIH, 6705 Rockledge I, Suite 4184, MSC 7983, Bethesda, MD 20892-7983; e-mail, ScientificAffairs@od.nih.gov.
The Food and Drug Administration is seeking comment on the Animal Drug User Fee Act regarding the program’s performance and reauthorization.
The act authorizes the FDA to collect fees for certain animal drug applications, establishments, products, and sponsors in support of the review of animal drugs. Congress authorized the act in 2003, and the FDA implemented fees in 2004.
The FDA expects to collect $5 million in fees for 2004, $8 million for 2005, and $10 million annually from 2006 to 2008. The FDA anticipates substantial savings to industry in regulatory review and developmental expenses because the fees should help achieve shorter, more predictable review times by increasing FDA review staff and building better management systems.
The FDA will hold a public meeting about the program from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST Feb. 24 at the DoubleTree Hotel, Plaza II and III, 1750 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852.
The deadline for requests to make a presentation is Feb. 10 to Aleta Sindelar, Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) (HFV-3), Food and Drug Administration, 7519 Standish Place, Rockville, MD 20855; (240) 276-9004; fax (240) 276-9020; e-mail, email@example.com.
The deadline for written comments is March 26 to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061, Rockville, MD 20852; or to www.fda.gov/dockets/ecomments. Comments should include the docket number, 2005N-0488.
The Veterinary Community
USDA building new center for poultry research
The Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service has broken ground on a $5.2 million facility for poultry research at the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Md.
The 28,100-square-foot building will house chickens and turkeys for use in research by the Growth Biology Laboratory and the Biotechnology and Germplasm Laboratory. The two laboratories now share space in a building dating back to the 1930s, while other buildings house the poultry.
Opening in May 2006, the new facility will house turkeys in one wing and chickens in another wing. In between will be the laboratories, a hatchery, feed rooms, and a shower and disinfection area.
Michigan State opens cancer care clinic
Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine recently opened its Animal Cancer Care Clinic.
The 42,000-square-foot facility will offer the latest in diagnostic techniques and patient care—and also participate in clinical research.
The new clinic is the first phase of the MSU Center for Comparative Oncology. The second step will be to expand the facility to accommodate additional research, particularly in the laboratory. Dr. Barbara Kitchell is director of the center.
The clinic’s staff will include two medical oncologists, two radiation oncologists, two surgical oncologists, and at least six veterinary technicians. The clinic will establish residency training programs in medical and radiation oncology and a fellowship program in surgical oncology.
Construction has begun on a new 72,000 square foot life sciences research building on the Blacksburg campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
The three-story building will contain animal care facilities—including a state-of-the-art small animal vivarium—life sciences laboratories, and a biological safety level 3 laboratory. It will also provide space for more than 200 faculty, students, and staff engaged in biological research.
“We will have a research facility that will meet (National Institutes of Health) and (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) standards,” said Dixon Hanna, associate provost.
Building costs are estimated at around $35 million, and the facility is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2007.
Agricultural Research Service recognizes Beard
Dr. Charles W. Beard, a retiree from the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, is a new inductee of the ARS Science Hall of Fame for his career achievements in agricultural science.
A 1955 graduate of the University of Georgia, Dr. Beard joined ARS in 1965 at the Southeast Poultry Laboratory in Athens, Ga., where he served as director for 21 years. During his 28-year career at ARS, Dr. Beard developed the test for the detection of avian influenza antibodies in serum and egg yolk.
He also conducted experimental studies and published papers on poultry disease subjects including serology, vaccines, pathogenesis, and disease containment.
After leaving the ARS, Dr. Beard served as the vice president for research and technology at the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association until 2004.