Research Medicine in the Fight Against COVID-19

Research Medicine in the Fight Against COVID-19

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, research medicine is at the forefront of the news currently. Researchers work around the clock and around the world to develop a vaccine as well as medications to treat or prevent worsening symptoms. In order to safely and effectively develop a vaccine as well as drug protocols, laboratory research animals are taking center stage. Ironically, those who have reviled testing on animals, the animal extremist groups, have been uncharacteristically silent.

Importance of Animals in Finding a Vaccine and Treatments

Research animals play a vital role in finding treatments for COVID-19. To find a cure or preventative vaccine, it will require more, not less testing. Currently no single animal model is the perfect match. In fact, the mice used in COVID-19 research are genetically engineered to be susceptible to the virus as mice don’t get coronaviruses. COVID-19 research will require the use of multiple species, a lot of failed experiments and time to develop a safe, effective means to vaccinate and treat patients.

A Variety of Research Methods Are Employed

Researchers first use cell cultures, microbial studies, and computer models before moving on to the use of animals in order to ensure safety. Typically, vaccines require a molecule of the virus or bacteria to be used to create an immune response in the body. Depending on the virus, researchers must juggle the amount of virus and the type of virus (modified live, killed, attenuated) to achieve a safe but effective immune response. All of this takes time. There are currently 60 treatments in research development for COVID-19 as of April 1, 2020. Some studies are using new drugs, others are using drugs that have been around for many years that treat other illnesses.

Creative Approaches

Researchers are also thinking outside the box when it comes to creating a vaccine. It typically takes 12-18 months of research testing for vaccinations using actual viruses, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) recently dosed its first volunteer with a clinical trial of a vaccine candidate known as mRNA-1273. This vaccine cannot cause COVID-19 as it does not contain the virus. Instead, it contains a small piece of the genetic code called mRNA (messenger RNA) which scientists have extracted from the virus. They then expand the virus in the laboratory. In this case, the mRNA encodes a viral “spike” protein which is vital for the coronavirus to gain entry to cells. The hope is that the vaccine will stimulate enough of an immune response to attack the virus and prevent the development of COVID-19.

Other Treatment Research

Different research companies are also working overtime to develop potential medicines that could be effective against the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. These medications may enter clinical trials as early as this summer. One company, Regeneron, uses a type of drug called monoclonal antibodies. These are proteins produced by the immune system that can neutralize the disease-causing virus. These antibodies are made in mice that have been genetically modified to have human-like immune systems. This means that when given to a patient, the patient’s immune system will not attack the antibody. This technology was used previously to create a “cocktail of antibodies” that had some efficacy against the Ebola virus.

Regeneron wants to select two antibodies against the virus (known as SARS-CO V-2). These antibodies will target a protein on the virus’ outer shell, the spike protein. The reason to have two antibodies targeting the spike protein is to make it more difficult to mutate in a way that allows it to evade both antibodies. According to a press release from Regeneron, its scientists have isolated hundreds of virus-neutralizing antibodies from its mice, and more from patients who have recovered from COVID-19.

Another promising drug, 3a, was developed a decade ago. In lab experiments, it was found to fight off a number of viruses. A descendant of that compound, called Remdesivir, is being rushed to patients with infections from COVID-19 in the hopes that it can reduce the intensity and duration of COVID-19. Remdesivir, when tested in cells and animals infected by other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS, kept showing signs of potential. It is now being tested in five clinical trials. The first trial results are expected next month.

An 85-year-old medication used for malaria is also being looked at. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working closely with other government agencies and academic centers investigating the use of the drug chloroquine to determine whether it can be used to treat patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19. The study looks to potentially reduce the duration of symptoms, as well as viral shedding, which can help prevent the spread of disease. Chloroquine is currently approved for treating malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Studies are underway to determine the efficacy in using chloroquine to treat COVID-19.

Research Animals are Vital

Each of these medications will be used on animals in a research setting to check efficacy and safety. The need for research animals to test for medications can’t be stressed enough. In order for these vital medications and vaccines to advance to clinical trial level, they must be tested on animals, after going through computer models, cell cultures, and in vitro testing. There is no easy way to advance medications, quickly and safely, without the use of animal research.
Research animals are very highly regulated both in the government as well as in the research community. In addition to complying with regulatory laws and guidelines, most institutions also participate in accreditation programs.
The comfort and wellbeing of laboratory animals is paramount. In addition to the scientists, research animals are cared for by a staff of veterinarians, animal husbandry specialists and veterinary technicians who specialize in the care of laboratory animals.

The Convenient Silence of Some Animal Extremist Groups

From an article “Why Animal Research is Essential to Tackling COVID-19” author Kirk Leech makes the case that while these groups are strangely quiet, they are still opposed to the use of animals for any purpose. “The normally loud and brash online platforms of activist groups opposed to the use of animals in research are strangely quiet at the moment. It’s easy to see why, of course. The coronavirus pandemic has made their arguments far harder to make than usual”.

The Need for Animals in Research

Animal extremist groups falsely claim that there is no need for animals in research and all research can be completed using computer models. This is a blatantly false claim. The public needs to understand that while there are ongoing scientific efforts to reduce the use of animals in research, it simply is not realistic to eliminate animals in research altogether. At least not at this time.

Protect The Harvest supports the use of animals in research laboratories, and thanks the researchers for their round the clock work at this very difficult time in our world. For more information about animals in research and the care they receive, we encourage everyone to visit the Americans for Medical Progress website’s “ Come See Our World .”

Related Posts


Want to stay up-to-date on the stories we’re following and see how you can make a difference in the fight to keep our traditions alive?

© 2023 Protect The Harvest. All Rights Reserved

StoryBrand Website design by Results and Co.