Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ebola vaccine success highlights dilemma of testing on captive chimps to save wild apes

Date:
May 26, 2014
Source:
University of Cambridge
Summary:
A new study illustrates “high conservation potential” of vaccines for endangered wild primates devastated by viral disease, but highlights need for access to captive chimpanzees so vaccines can be trialled before being administered in the wild.

Common chimpanzee.
Credit: Jeremy Breaux, New Iberia Research Centre

A new study illustrates "high conservation potential" of vaccines for endangered wild primates devastated by viral disease, but highlights need for access to captive chimpanzees so vaccines can be trialled before being administered in the wild.

The first conservation-specific vaccine trial on captive chimpanzees has proved a vaccine against Ebola virus is both safe and capable of producing a robust immune response in chimpanzees.

This unprecedented study, published in the journal PNAS, shows that 'orphan' vaccines -- which never complete the expensive licensing process for human use -- can be co-opted for use on wildlife and might be a godsend for highly endangered species such as gorillas and chimpanzees, say researchers.

They suggest that, by ending captive research in an effort to pay back an "ethical debt" to captive chimpanzees, the US Government is poised to "renege on an even larger debt to wild chimpanzees" at risk from viruses transmitted by tourists and researchers -- as safety testing on captive chimpanzees is required before vaccines can be used in the wild.

"The ape conservation community has long been non-interventionist, taking a 'Garden of Eden' approach to modern medicine for wild animals, but we ended Eden by destroying habitats and spreading disease," said Dr Peter Walsh, the senior author on the study from the Division of Biological Anthropology, University of Cambridge, who conducted the trial at the New Iberia Research Centre in the US with researchers from the Centre, as well as the US Army, the University of Louisiana and the conservation charity Apes Incorporated.

"Half of deaths among chimps and gorillas that live in proximity to humans are from our respiratory viruses. For us it's a sore throat -- for them it's death."

"We need to be pragmatic about saving these animals now before they are wiped out forever, and vaccination could be a turning point. But park managers are adamant -- and rightly so at this stage -- that all vaccines are tested on captive apes before deployment in the wild. This means access to captive chimpanzees for vaccine trials."

Infectious diseases pose extinction-level threats to African ape species on a par with poaching and habitat loss, say researchers, with populations continuing to be devastated by malaria, anthrax and "spillover" respiratory viruses -- as well as massive Ebola outbreaks which had killed roughly one third of the world gorilla population by 2007.

They believe 'orphan' vaccines could be critical weapons in the fight for wild ape survival. But the ability to test new vaccines relies on research access to captive chimpanzees, and the study's authors argue that it is vital to retain captive chimpanzees for vaccine trials, not for human use, but to help save key species of wild apes from extinction.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is now considering regulations that would end all biomedical testing on captive chimpanzees over the next few years -- the US being the only developed country to allow such research. The study's authors believe that the US should establish a "humanely housed" captive chimpanzee population dedicated solely to conservation research.

The researchers administered captive chimpanzees with a new 'virus-like particle' (VLP) vaccine being developed by the biotech company Integrated Biotherapeutics for use on humans. While they did not challenge the vaccinated animals directly with Ebola, researchers tested whether antibodies harvested from the chimpanzees could protect mice against the deadly virus. They also monitored the chimpanzees in case the vaccine produced health complications.

Results showed that the vaccine is safe in chimpanzees. The vaccinated chimpanzees developed 'robust immune responses', with virus-specific antibodies detected as early as 2 to 4 weeks after the first vaccination in some animals and within 2 weeks of the second vaccination in all animals.

The authors note that these VLP vaccines currently require multiple administrations to reach "full potency," but could prove the difference between survival and extinction for species that are highly endangered or immunologically fragile but also easy to vaccinate.

"There is a large pool of experimental vaccines that show excellent safety and immunity profiles in primate trails but are never licensed for human use," said Walsh.

"We've demonstrated that it's feasible for very modestly funded ape conservationists to adapt these orphan vaccines into conservation tools, but the ability to trial vaccines on captive chimps is vital. Ours is the first conservation-related vaccine trial on captive chimpanzees -- and it may be the last.

"Although Congress specifically instructed the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to consider the conservation value of captive chimpanzee research, no findings on its possible impact were presented. If the biomedical laboratories that have the facilities and inclination to conduct controlled vaccine trials 'liquidate' their chimpanzee populations, there will be nowhere left to do conservation-related trials."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Cambridge. The original story is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Cambridge. "Ebola vaccine success highlights dilemma of testing on captive chimps to save wild apes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140526182658.htm>.
University of Cambridge. (2014, May 26). Ebola vaccine success highlights dilemma of testing on captive chimps to save wild apes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140526182658.htm
University of Cambridge. "Ebola vaccine success highlights dilemma of testing on captive chimps to save wild apes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140526182658.htm (accessed September 29, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, September 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) The drop in price of soy on the international market is a cause for concern in Argentina, as soybean exports are a major source of income for Latin America's third largest economy. Duration: 01:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) A mama bear and her two cubs climb trees, wrestle and take naps in the backyard of a Monrovia, California home. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) Once upon a time, farming was a blissfully low-tech business on Colombia's northern plains. Duration: 02:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins