US faces monkey shortage for COVID-19 research

COVID-19 vaccines and treatments typically get tested in monkeys before being given to humans, but now, those primates are in short supply, The Atlantic reported.The authors of the report proposed establishing a “strategic monkey reserve” in order to meet future demand, and to provide a buffer in case of “unpredictable disease outbreaks,” according to The Atlantic. No reserve was ever established, and when COVID-19 emerged in late 2019, the demand for monkeys skyrocketed worldwide.Compounding the problem, the U.S. received about 3 out of 5 research monkeys from China last year, and now, that critical supply chain has been severed, The Atlantic reported. The NIH funds seven primate centers nationwide, and the agency now dictates who can access its monkeys through an initiative called Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV).Primate studies are important because researchers can test a treatment or vaccine’s safety and effectiveness without posing any risk to humans. For instance, because monkeys and humans have similar immune systems, an effective coronavirus vaccine should theoretically trigger comparable effects in both, The Atlantic reported.

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