Research

Research

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

As with other studies in which chimpanzees are used for infectious disease research, there is a disparity between the human and chimpanzee course of RSV infection—putting the value of this research into question.

About RSV

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is “a respiratory virus that can cause lung infections.” (1) In humans, RSV typically does not cause serious illness, and its symptoms may go unnoticed. It is estimated that by age two, most children have been infected at some time with RSV. (2)

Typical symptoms mimic the common cold and may progress to coughing and/or wheezing. Serious illness can result, usually in immunocompromised populations such as the elderly, infants who were born prematurely, and young children suffering from respiratory or cardiac disorders. (3)

RSV is most prevalent during the fall and winter months. Most RSV infections do not require treatment, but for those that do, treatments typically consist of relieving the symptoms of upper and lower respiratory congestion and cough. For serious infections requiring hospitalization, antiviral treatments such as Ribavirin (4) and intravenous immune globulin may be administered. (5)

A range of human clinical studies are currently funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study treatment of RSV. In 2004, NIH funded 26 human clinical studies of RSV. (6) (This number does not include any prior studies which may still have been in progress during this time.) From 2005 to 2008, NIH sponsored seven clinical trials, in which the effectiveness and safety of medications or medical devices are monitored for their effects on large groups of people. During this same timeframe, 42 clinical trials were sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, universities, and other non-government organizations. (7)

Under NIH, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) “supports research to develop a [RSV] vaccine,” and once one is developed, “Researchers plan to evaluate several versions of this vaccine for immunogenicity (the ability to provoke an immune response) and advance the most promising candidates into studies of safety and effectiveness in non-human primates.” (8) Yet, there exists abundant evidence demonstrating that the safety and efficacy testing of vaccines in chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates is not predictive of their safety and efficacy in humans. For example, each of the 85-plus HIV/AIDS vaccines tested to date in chimpanzees and monkeys has failed to protect humans, despite the majority of them offering protection in the nonhuman primate tests. Given the poor track record of chimpanzee use in other areas of vaccine research such as hepatitis C and malaria, as well as RSV, there is sound logic to conclude that further chimpanzee use will not lead to a successful vaccine for RSV. 

The use of chimpanzee infants in RSV research

As with other studies in which chimpanzees are used for infectious disease research, there are significant differences between the human and chimpanzee course of infection from RSV. RSV infection in chimpanzees causes them to experience moderate nasal discharge and mild to moderate nasal congestion, similar to the common cold. Beyond these symptoms, there does not seem to be any further progression of the disease in chimpanzees. (9)

Chimpanzees appear to develop a natural immunity to the virus by the age of two. (10) Therefore, many chimpanzees used in RSV research must be less than two years old because after that time they develop protective antibodies to RSV infection. (11) A young chimpanzee is typically not weaned before the age of five and in nature is almost constantly by his or her mother’s side during those first years of life.

This research “requirement” for young chimpanzees results in them being separated from their mothers when they are very young, which in turn greatly increases the emotional toll on chimpanzees used for RSV research. Research labs also use this “need” as a reason to continue breeding chimpanzees—whose lifetime care and use becomes an economic burden, and as a way to try to “promote” their use in research, which overall entails a lifetime of psychological and physical suffering for these chimpanzees. Ending the use of babies and children in this area of research must be a priority since it has not only proven to be of no benefit to humans to date, but it also condemns more chimpanzees to a lifetime of living in and being used in a lab.

In addition to the severe distress caused by separation from their mothers (and stress to the mothers themselves), experimental procedures required for RSV entail the collection of nasopharyngeal swabs and tracheal lavage [irrigation] samples at intervals over a period of 10 days. (12) Tracheal lavage must be carried out under general anesthesia, as is the initial procedure of infecting the young chimpanzees with intranasal and intratracheal inoculation of the virus.

NIH funded grants* involving RSV research using chimpanzees:

Researcher:

Thomas Rowell

Grant No.

5U42RR015087-08

Project:

Establishment/Maintenance of Biomedical Research Colony

Institution:

New Iberia Research Center, University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Project runs:

September 1, 2000—August 31, 2011

2008 Funding:

$1,000,578

In the grant above, New Iberia receives federal funding for the housing and maintenance of their chimpanzee population. Among other things, the funding helps support, “the development of and access to chimpanzee animal models critical to understanding human health needs”; RSV is included as one of the desired animal models. (13)

Researcher:

Brian Murphy

Grant No.

1Z01AI000326-24

Project:

Study Of Respiratory & Flavivirus Vaccines In Volunteers

Institution:

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/Intramural

Project runs:

2005

Funding:

Unavailable

 

Researcher:

Brian Murphy

Grant No.

1Z01AI000327-19, - 21, - 23,

Project:

Laboratory And Pre-clinical Studies Of Parainfluenza Viruses

Institution:

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Project runs:

2000, 2002, 2004

Funding:

Unavailable

 

Researcher:

Peter Leon Collins

Grant No.

1Z01AI000372-20

Project:

Respiratory Syncytial Virus Biology And Vaccine Development

Institution:

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Project runs:

2002

Funding:

Unavailable

 

Researcher:

Peter Leon Collins

Grant No.

1Z01AI000372-20

Project:

Respiratory Virus Neutralization by Intracellular AB

Institution:

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Project runs:

September 1, 2000 - August 31, 2003

Funding:

Unavailable

 

Researcher:

Richard Bradbury

Grant No.

3N01AO052706-010

Project:

Nonhuman Primate Facility - Infectious Disease Research

Institution:

 BIOQUAL, Inc.

Project runs:

December 31, 1994 - February 29, 2000

Funding:

Unavailable

 

Researcher:

Brian Murphy

Grant No.

1Z01AI000345-19

Project:

Laboratory and Pre-Clinical Studies of Respiratory Syncytial Virus

Institution:

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/Intramural

Project runs:

2000

Funding:

Unavailable

 

Researcher:

Peter Leon Collins

Grant No.

1Z01AI000372-18

Project:

REPLICATION,VIRULENCE & IMMUNOGENICITY IN RECOMBINANT RESPIRATORY SYNCYTIAL VIRUSES

Institution:

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Project runs:

2000

Funding:

Unavailable

* All grant information is from the Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects (CRISP) database.


Sources

(1) Respiratory Syncytial Virus fact sheet, NIAID.

(2) Babies Today. RSV: Battling the wintertime bug.

(3) The RSV Info Center.

(4) Krilov, LR. Respiratory Syncytial Virus, EMedicine.

(5) Respiratory and Enteric Diseases Branch, Center for Disease Control (CDC).

(6) Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects (CRISP) database

(7) ClinicalTrials.gov

(8) NIAID’s Role in RSV Research, NIAID.

(9) Whitehead SS, Hill MG, et al. 1999. Replacement of the F and G proteins of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) subgroup A with those of subgroup B generates chimeric live attenuated RSV subgroup B vaccine candidates. J Virol. Dec;73(12):9773-80.

(10) Sibal, LR and Samson, KJ. 2001. Nonhuman Primates: A Critical Role in Current Disease Research, ILAR Journal, 42(2):78.

(11) Ibid.

(12) Teng MN, Whitehead SS et al. 2000. Recombinant Respiratory Syncytial Virus That Does Not Express the NS1 or M2-2 Protein Is Highly Attenuated and Immunogenic in Chimpanzees. J Virol. October; 74(19):9318.

(13) CRISP database.

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