The American public failed to realize that monkeys imported from Cambodia carried deadly pathogens US news

Animal activists are calling on the US government to stop the importation of non-human primates for laboratory use after documents from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). a bioterrorism risk – entered the country with monkeys imported from Asia between 2018 and 2021.

Documents obtained by Persons for the Ethical Treatment of animals (Peta) and seen exclusively by The Guardian, along with a case report from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, reveal that six cases of Burkholderia pseudomallei have been identified in primates imported from Cambodia to the US.

The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Peta has written to the CDC urging that they immediately halt the importation of all non-human primates for the protection of US residents, the integrity of science, and the welfare of animals and their ecosystems.

B. pseudomallei, endemic to Southeast Asia, causes melioidosis, a rare but life-threatening disease in humans, usually caused by contact with the pathogen in soil or water. It has a mortality rate of up to 50% and B. pseudomallei is, according to the CDC, a “Select Agent Level 1” with potential as a bioterrorism agent.

Dr. Lisa Jones-Engel, Peta’s chief scientific adviser, told The Guardian: “There is no indication that the CDC or research industries have been transparent with the public about these sick monkeys.”

Released last week, the case report titled “Melioidosis in a Cynomolgus macaque imported to the United States from Cambodia” reveals that one of the macaques entered the US from Cambodia by air with 359 other macaques and was diagnosed with B pseudomallei in quarantine in Texas in January 2021. Imported non-human primates, or NHPs, are being held in quarantine ordered by the CDC for 31 days while undergoing infectious disease testing.

The macaque was euthanized due to concerns about zoonotic transmission and the possible introduction of this select Tier 1 agent into the environment. The report reveals that the other 359 monkeys shipped with the infected monkey “appeared healthy at the end of the quarantine period and were released from CDC-mandated quarantine.”

However, asymptomatic infected animals can shed B. pseudomallei into the environment. Jones-Engel said: “Monkeys imported from Asia can harbor the Burkholderia pathogen for months, shedding the bacteria through their feces, urine, blood and saliva into the environment. The CDC is aware of the danger to humans and has not warned the public.”

The report confirms that importation of B. pseudomallei-infected animals could introduce the organism into the US, stating, “Surveillance is essential to prevent its introduction via imported animals.” Currently, melioidosis is not a notifiable disease, although the report authors recommended that it be considered.

The report identified an additional five Cambodian macaques in separate shipments that were diagnosed with B pseudomallei, one during quarantine and another four several months after being released from quarantine.

Direct transmission of the disease from animals to humans is rare but can occur. There are about 12 human cases a year in the US, mostly in travelers to Asia or northern Australia.

However, on July 27, 2022, the same day that Peta obtained a response to a freedom of information law request, the CDC issued an advisory regarding the presence of B. pseudomallei in the environment in the Mississippi Delta. This is the first time it has been detected in soil and water in the US and came after two people in the state of Mississippi were diagnosed with melioidosis, one in 2020 and the other in 2022. Neither had traveled and both were hospitalized but recovered.

Documents that the CDC released in July also reveal that since 2019 the increase in imported primates has been accompanied by an increase in monkeys arriving with other zoonotic pathogens, including tuberculosis, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, Y entercolitica, campylobacter, malaria, as well as hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. . “consistent with filovirus infection.” Filoviruses include Ebola and Marburg viruses. Both are Select Level 1 Agents.

Primates that died on arrival increased from two in 2017 to 11 in 2021, and monkeys that died in quarantine increased from 29 to 125. Primates that were sick but recovered and released increased by 2,280% from five to 119 in 2021 , and overall mortality increased .from 31 to 136 in five years.

An Action for Primates veterinary adviser, Dr Nedim Buyukmihci, told The Guardian: “Non-human primates in a free-living situation are unlikely to spread disease to people. But, when trapped, transported, or confined, they become very distressed and can kill disease-causing organisms. These data emphasize the potentially significant risk to public health from the transport and use of nonhuman primates in laboratories.”

Native to Southeast Asia, long-tailed macaques are the most commercialized primates for laboratory use and are now endangered in part due to exploitation by the research industry.

Historically, China exported most macaques to the US, but stopped trading during the coronavirus pandemic. This, combined with increased demand from the research industry, has resulted in increased exports of wild and farmed monkeys from Cambodia, Mauritius, Vietnam and the resumption of trade from Indonesia, Laos and the Philippines. The trappers in Indonesia were filmed inflicting violence on wild macaques during their capture.

In recent years, the number of macaques exported from Cambodia to the US has more than tripled, from 5,851 in 2018 to 18,870 in 2021. The US is the world’s largest importer of primates and the only country that has imported wild macaques legally since 2014. .

Jones-Engel said, “The increase in disease in the NHP is potentially a result of the increase in wild-caught monkeys being inserted into monkey farms and/or being exported.”

Long-tailed macaques are often used in toxicity tests to identify the adverse effects of drugs or chemicals. Immobilized monkeys receive doses by injection, infusion, or a tube forced into the stomach without anesthesia. Dosing can last for months or years with side effects including pain, tremors, vomiting, internal bleeding, and death.

proponents they say there would be no drug production without animal research. However, the US Food and Drug Administration advises that animal testing has a 92% failure rate of prediction of the safety or efficacy of pharmaceuticals in humans.

Cambodia has eight monkey farms. However, the industry has come under scrutiny when in November this year, federal prosecutors indicted eight members of a primate smuggling ring for their role in laundering 3,000 endangered wild macaques from Cambodia to commercial exporters. americans. The US Department of Justice indictment charges two Cambodian government wildlife officials, and the owner and staff of Vanny Bio Resources, a monkey supplier in Cambodia. The indictment includes two unnamed co-conspirators in the US in Alice, Texas and Miami.

The CDC previously said that Cambodia has suspended its export of primates to the US.

“Primate experimentation in the US is part of the global wildlife trade in endangered species,” Jones-Engel said. “It is unspeakably cruel and a substantial threat to public health. It must stop,” said Dr. Jones-Engel.

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