At Upcoming Ethics Hearing in Taipei Officials Should Accept the Physicians Committee Proposal to End Beagle Experiments
Statement of Kenneth Litwak, D.V.M., Ph.D., associate director of laboratory medicine, responding to the ethics hearing that will take place in September:
The Taiwanese Council of Agriculture (COA) plan to allow beagle puppies to be exposed to rabid ferret-badgers will not stop or prevent the spread of rabies, since rabies can infect all warm-blooded animals regardless of viral variant. Efforts must focus on stopping and preventing the spread of rabies or there will be severe public health risk.
Vaccination is the most effective and expedient way to prevent the spread of rabies. Infecting dogs with rabies virus for the purpose of testing rabies vaccines efficacy is no longer considered necessary or ethical by rabies experts.
Current rabies vaccines protect against most rabies viruses and rabies-like viruses. The primary viral protein detected by the immune system in this new strain is over 90 percent homologous with other strains of rabies virus found in Asia. So the question is not whether the virus will spread from a ferret-badger to a dog, which is what the COA is proposing to test, and is already known. The question is how well can current vaccinations protect against this new viral strain. This can be addressed quickly with current in vitro methods, such as virus neutralization assays.
To stem the rabies outbreak, the COA must focus on wide spread vaccination efforts and stop wasting valuable time, effort, and money on experiments that will only continue to prove that rabies can spread from animal to animal and animal to human – we know this.
Sept. 28 is World Rabies Day. For Taiwan to avert this potential public health crisis, the government needs to adopt an aggressive rabies vaccination campaign and ask all citizens of Taiwan to vaccinate their dogs and other animals by World Rabies Day.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.