A primate died last fall after a routine procedure to administer HIV medication to it for research purposes at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
A UNMC veterinarian and an animal rights group this week agreed that the monkey died after medication was given to it through a nasal-gastric tube.
The research monkeys can cost $10,000 to $20,000 apiece or more, said Dr. John Bradfield, a UNMC veterinarian and director of comparative medicine at the institution.
The death was first made public by the Ohio-based Stop Animal Exploitation Now, or SAEN. The group searches federal records to discover negative animal treatment in laboratories in hopes of ending such research. SAEN has reported lab animal deaths at UNMC and Creighton University in Omaha before and at many other institutions across the U.S.
Michael Budkie, co-founder of the group, said it was “not the kind of procedure in which an animal should have died.” Budkie said that “unfortunately, the University of Nebraska is not unique” in experiencing these situations.
Bradfield said SAEN has “a huge bias to try and convince people that research with animals” is inappropriate. Bradfield said UNMC’s veterinarians and scientists hate when an animal dies unexpectedly like this.
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“There’s a lot of angst; there’s a lot of soul-searching,” Bradfield said Thursday. He said that such a death is neither routine nor OK but that it’s “reality, it’s fact.”
He said the aim of the federally funded research project is to improve the ability to get anti-viral medications into certain tissues to fight HIV.
Bradfield said the primate was given anesthesia, then awakened after the procedure. Then it suffered physical distress. Veterinarians tried to save it but couldn’t. He said UNMC informed the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. UNMC’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee investigated the situation.
He said the protocol for the procedure has been changed so that the monkey is kept sedated longer and ultrasound technology is used to place the tube. He said that the USDA did a routine, unannounced inspection last week and that UNMC received a clean report.