(Updates headline, adds center information)
By Nathan Frandino
COVINGTON, La., June 10 (Reuters) – On a 200-acre plot near a small town in Louisiana north of New Orleans, about 5,000 monkeys are climbing and sitting in an enclosure.
Many of the primates, mostly rhesus macaque, at the Tulane National Research Center are intended for use in scientific research, including in experiments with COVID-19.
The facility with high-level biosafety laboratories capable of dealing with biological threat agents such as anthrax was well positioned to quickly turn to COVID-19 research when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
“Non-human primates are really critical for us to understand not only the disease and how it affects the organism, but also to compare treatments, therapies, vaccinations,” Bohm told Reuters.
Rhesus macaques, the primate species most commonly used for scientific research, make up the majority of the center’s breeding colony and the 200 adult animals used in its coronavirus experiments over the past year.
COVID-19-related studies from the center include a publication published in the National Academy of Sciences scientific journal in February that found older individuals with high body mass index and more severe COVID-19 infection exhaled several respiratory drops, becoming so-called ‘super-diffusers.’
Primates were at the heart of the study, said Chad Roy, co-author and director of the Center’s Aerobiological Infectious Diseases.
Among future work, the center plans to investigate “long COVID”, the incidence of one in 10 patients diagnosed who remain unwell long after their acute infection.
“There are many different therapies that come online to be tested, and with the network we have, we can compare one treatment with another,” said Center Director Jay Rappaport, referring to the role of the facility that coordinates COVID-19 work. . of the seven U.S. primate research centers.
Once the experiments are complete, the Tulane Center kills the monkeys for tissue collection so researchers can study the effects of COVID-19 in addition to the respiratory system.
Kathy Guillermo from laboratory studies at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said primates should not be used for testing.
“They don’t have to kill them if they don’t use them,” she said. “What we learn about value becomes what we learn from people.” (Reporting by Nathan Frandino; Editing by Karishma Singh and Jane Wardell)
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