De Europese Commissie heeft gisteren de cijfers bekend gemaakt over het gebruik van proefdieren in de Europese Unie (EU). De cijfers hebben betrekking op 2017. Het is voor het eerst dat deze cijfers op Europees niveau naar buiten komen. In Nederland rapporteert de Nederlandse Voedsel- en Warenautoriteit (NVWA) elk jaar specifiek de Nederlandse cijfers. Het rapport met de Europese cijfers over 2017 kunt u hier downloaden.
De ‘European Animal Research Association’ (EARA), die zich ten doel stelt de interesse in biomedisch onderzoek en innovaties in de gezondheidszorg in Europa te bevorderen, bracht gisteren onderstaand persbericht naar buiten met een reactie van Nederlandse belanghebbenden op de Europese cijfers.
EU-wide figures on the number of animals in science
The Dutch biomedical research sector has welcomed the publication of the first comprehensive statistics, from across the EU, including the Netherlands, on all uses of animals in scientific, medical and veterinary research.
The headline figures published show that the total number of animals used in the EU in 2017 was 9,388,162. More than 92% of the total were mice, fish, rats, and birds, whereas cats, dogs and primates, accounted for around 0.25% of the total.
The total is made up of animals used in basic and applied research, and regulatory studies aimed at ensuring the safety of medicines and other products, routine production and education and training.
Statistics were also released for animal use in the Netherlands in 2017 (see also case study below) although these have been superseded by the recent release of the 2018 statistics. The most used animals in the Netherlands in 2017 were mice, rats, and birds, which represented 77.3% of the total – dogs, cats, and monkeys made up 0.2%.
Dogs can be used to test new drugs before clinical trials are conducted in humans, while monkeys are also used in drug testing and have played a significant role in research in AIDS and developing treatments for Parkinson’s disease.
Commenting on the figures, Kirk Leech, executive director of the European Animal Research Association (EARA), said: “The EU biomedical sector is committed to transparency and openness on the use of animals in research and this is another step towards that.”
“Using animals as a research model is often the only way to develop new treatments and understanding of the human body and we congratulate the EU for making these statistics public.”
Case study for the Netherlands
Studying mice to help prevent heart attacks and stroke
Research from Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, has used animal imaging studies to identify when arteries become clogged with fatty substances, which can lead to heart attacks and stroke.
Plaques in blood vessels are the main cause of heart attack and stroke and when they rupture, they release material into the blood, clogging downstream arteries. Using non-invasive imaging in mice, the team could detect plaques with much a higher resolution than diagnostic techniques currently used in the clinic. This is of high significance for timely diagnostics in women where the plaques tend to be smaller than in male patients, but not less hazardous. The findings led to clinical research in humans, where the same imaging technique was used. Such clinical studies depend on developing this imaging approach with animal models of vascular disease.
Martje Fentener van Vlissingen, Head of the Erasmus MC Animal Research Facility, said: “Animal imaging studies can translate into new clinical imaging methods, contributing to better diagnosis and treatment of atherosclerosis in patients, preventing heart attacks and stroke.”
Separate figures were also produced to record the number of animals that were bred but not used in experiments, which was 12,597,816 across the EU. These can be animals that underwent no procedures themselves; that were the wrong gender for a particular research study; or were a necessary surplus from breeding.
There was also a figure for animals used for the creation and maintenance of genetically altered animal lines (1,276,587).
Most of the medicines we have come from animal research. Often science doesn’t need to use animals, but for many key questions they are crucial.
Animals are used alongside several other techniques such as cell cultures, human studies and computational models. These methods are used – often in tandem – to answer the key biological questions necessary to understand and treat disease. Before an animal model is selected, researchers must show that the knowledge could not be acquired using non-animal methods.