SAEN LogoUTMB under investigation for treatment of monkeys, sources say
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Please levy the MAXIMUM FINE against the University of Texas, Medical Branch, Galveston for their blatant disregard of the Animal Welfare Act when their ineptitude allowed many monkeys to die painfully without being euthanized. Their utter disregard for the animals and the Animal Welfare Act CANNOT be tolerated and MUST be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

 

UTMB under investigation for treatment of monkeys, sources say
By Marissa Barnett, GalvNews.com, November 6, 2015

The University of Texas Medical Branch is the subject of another federal agency investigation related to allegations that researchers at the Galveston National Laboratory disregarded the suffering of macaque monkeys infected with a deadly virus, according to an animal rights watchdog group.

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Care Division and the Investigation and Enforcement Services Division, as well as the National Institutes of Health will meet later this month at the medical branch, Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, said.

Budkie cited information from a U.S. Department of Agriculture employee to verify his claim. He declined to publicly name the source, but provided email documentation to The Daily News that confirmed the employee said there is an ongoing investigation and a site visit was planned.

The medical branch could not confirm the visit, the agencies involved or whether the agriculture department was indeed investigating the laboratory, spokesman Raul Reyes said.

“We are working with federal entities to resolve any issues,” Reyes said in an email. “Follow-up visits are a normal part of the review process.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has the authority to investigate potential violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act and impose penalties for infractions.

A scathing audit conducted by agencies of the National Institutes of Health reported to observe “serious animal welfare issues” in research performed by the laboratory in its study of the Marburg virus, which is related to Ebola and causes hemorrhagic fevers marked by severe bleeding, organ failure and, in many cases, death.

The confidential audit report listed 11 “critical observations,” any one of which could “affect the validity or integrity of a study and/or the acceptability of a contract research organization,” according to audit documents.

The report also listed 58 “major” and 20 “minor” observations.

The audit panned the Galveston National Laboratory for leaving 12 macaque monkeys unattended for up to 18 hours while infected with the deadly disease. Eight of the monkeys were found dead, the audit said.

“It is unknown how long these animals might have suffered before dying,” the audit said.

The audit also noted that the procedures used might have affected the quality of the research.

“In addition to the obvious serious animal welfare issues, the impact to this study is that crucial biomarker data were lost,” the report said.

The medical branch has said the observations are unfair because the laboratory was measured by stricter standards than it had agreed to in its contract with the National Institutes of Health.

“UTMB believes that our researchers followed the agreed-upon protocols for animal care; however, we are working closely with NIAID to address concerns that they expressed related to this nonhuman primate protocol,” officials said earlier this year.

The medical branch defended leaving the animals alone at night, when most of them died, because of safety practices at the laboratory. Personnel aren’t allowed to enter after normal business hours to monitor the animals, medical branch officials said then.

In September, following the audit, about a dozen medical branch officials met with officials from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to discuss future research collaborations, a medical branch statement said. The parties agreed the medical branch would establish overnight monitoring protocols, the statement said.

“They are looking to us to see what our researchers can safely do in high-containment environments overnight while generating valuable data for product development,” Dr. David W. Niesel, chief research officer at the medical branch, said.

Future research funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was not at risk, Niesel said.

The audit, as well as information from a whistle-blower connected to the medical branch, which led to the discovery of the audit, in part prompted animal welfare complaints to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service agency within the agriculture department.

USDA penalties can reach as much as $10,000 per infraction. If prosecuted, the breadth of the research at the Galveston National Laboratory has the potential to lead to massive fines, Budkie said.

Under the rules of the federal Animal Welfare Act, animals who are subjected to deadly diseases are supposed to be monitored and euthanized at crucial points to avoid extreme suffering, Budkie said.

The audit made it clear that the medical branch had been at best negligent in their care of the animals, he said.

“There is no reason for them to go to the point of allowing the animal die,” he said. “The requirements of the Animal Welfare Act don’t end at 5 p.m.”

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