A recent discovery of a virus in the deer mice with similarities to the hepatitis C virus could mean the end of research using chimpanzees.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is an infectious virus that affects the liver which can have devastating effects. Currently, there is no vacine available for Hepatitis C and research continues to find a vaccine. This is where the problem occurs. The only animal that reacts to the human HCV virus is the chimpanzee. Therefore the chimp is the only animal that can be used to research this virus.
This obviously arouses many ethical problems. Research using primates is highly controversial and is avoided where possible. The NIH are currently reviewing the use of chimps in research following an external working group which made recommendations to retire their stock of 360 chimps. However, this excluded research on HCV because there was no alternative animal to carry out the research.
But this is where the mighty mouse has come up trumps again.
Researchers have discovered a virus present in the liver of the deer mouse which is genetic similarities to the hepatitis C (HCV) virus. Although this is early days in research, this could mean the mouse can now be used as an animal model to study HCV. This would mean the chimp would be made redundant.
This is an excellent example of how pioneering new science can be used to refine and reduce animal experiments.