Bailey J. An assessment of the use of chimpanzees in hepatitis C research past, present and future: 1. validity of the chimpanzee model. Altern Lab Anim 2010; 38: 387-418.Download
The USA is the only significant user of chimpanzees in biomedical research in the world, since many countries have banned or limited the practice due to substantial ethical, economic and scientific concerns. Advocates of chimpanzee use cite hepatitis C research as a major reason for its necessity and continuation, in spite of supporting evidence that is scant and often anecdotal. This paper examines the scientific and ethical issues surrounding chimpanzee hepatitis C research, and concludes that claims of the necessity of chimpanzees in historical and future hepatitis C research are exaggerated and unjustifiable, respectively. The chimpanzee model has several major scientific, ethical, economic and practical caveats. It has made a relatively negligible contribution to knowledge of, and tangible progress against, the hepatitis C virus compared to non-chimpanzee research, and must be considered scientifically redundant, given the array of alternative methods of inquiry now available. The continuation of chimpanzee use in hepatitis C research adversely affects scientific progress, as well as chimpanzees and humans in need of treatment. Unfounded claims of its necessity should not discourage changes in public policy regarding the use of chimpanzees in US laboratories.