NEW COVID-19 PROBLEM: Shortage of Monkeys in Labs

NEW COVID-19 PROBLEM: Shortage of Monkeys in Labs

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Company responsible for providing lab monkeys to pharmaceutical companies, such as Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, is BIOQUAL Inc.  
Why did they need the lab monkeys? They needed them to develop their Covid-19 vaccines. 


SHORTAGE AND THE TRIAL ERA
Coronavirus was spreading rapidly across the US and the whole world which left the scientists empty-handed and in search of animals at the height of the pandemic.
A couple of things had an impact on the global shortage of monkeys for testing like recent ban on the sale of wildlife from China who is the leading and the most controversial supplier of the lab animals and the pandemic itself.

Even more problems arise as the new versions of the virus threaten to make the current batch of vaccines obsolete, so scientist have no other way of making it work than to find new sources of monkeys, and the United States is reassessing its reliance on China. American scientists tried to search private and government-funded facilities in Asia, Mauritius, Africa and other countries to find their preferred test subjects.


But soon they found out that no one can make up for what China supplied. Before the pandemic, China provided around 60 percent of primates imported into the United States in 2019.

Photo Credit: BBC News, Oxford University labs

BUT WHY MONKEYS?
Scientists say monkeys are the best option for researching coronavirus vaccines before they are tested on humans. They share 90+ percent of our DNA, and have similar biology so they can be tested with nasal swabs and they can have their lungs tested (which is the usual test we all went through at least once in the past year and a half). Scientists say that it’s impossible to find a substitute to test Covid-19 vaccines in, even though some drugs brought up in the beginning of the pandemic have been tested on hamsters.


SO… MONKEY RESERVE?
Skip Bohm, the chief veterinary medical officer said that the discussion for a strategic monkey reserve started about 10 years ago but a proper plan was never created because of the amount of money and time they needed to invest to build a quality breeding program.

Researchers usually collect hundreds of specimens from monkeys and their tissues can be frozen for years and they can be studied for a long period of time. They literally use every monkey to their last bit and the same thing was happening with monkeys used for COVID-19 vaccine testing. 
Some companies like Hubei Topgene Biotechnology raises monkeys for its own research and even though it used to be the top export destination, now it does not have enough animals to even conduct its own experiments.

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