New Delhi: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India has urged the Centre to stop the National Institute of Virology (NIV) from using "deadly tests" for a COVID-19 vaccine on monkeys.
In a letter, calling on the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA), PETA India urged the government to stop NIV to leave wild animals in nature and instead use human-relevant and animal-free research methods as required by Indian law.
The letter followed recent reports that the government of Maharashtra has approved the capturing of 30 wild monkeys for the NIV.
Describing that animal tests are often misleading, time-consuming barriers to introducing life-saving drugs, the organisation gave example of governing bodies in India and around the world how they are increasingly moving towards modern, non-animal methods.
The US National Institute of Health confirms that more than 95 per cent of all new drugs that are shown to be safe and effective in animal tests fail in human trials because they don't work or are dangerous.
COVID-19 is largely thought to have first infected humans through wildlife at a Chinese wet market, it said. "In fact, according to the World Health Organization, over 60 per cent of human pathogens are zoonotic (spread from animals to humans)."
Wild monkeys during capture and handling and in a laboratory setting present a significant threat of zoonosis, including herpes B, Kyasanur Forest disease, dengue, tuberculosis, simian immuno-deficiency viruses, and rabies, it said.
"This pandemic presents an opportunity for India to set improved standards for testing and developing safe and effective new therapeutics that avoid cruel, misleading, and wasteful experiments on animals," said PETA India Science Policy Adviser Dr Dipti Kapoor.
"PETA India is asking the CPCSEA and NIV to meet the demand for accelerated research during this pandemic using human-relevant methods instead of tests on animals, which don't advance human health."
The request comes amid human clinical trials for a vaccine for COVID-19 that have been initiated in the country with approximately 1,000 volunteers participating in the exercise for each of the two indigenously developed vaccine candidates -- one developed by Bharat Biotech International Ltd in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and another by Zydus Cadila Healthcare Ltd.
There are two Indian vaccine candidates that have undergone successful toxicity studies in rats, mice and rabbits and this data was submitted to the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI).