A new report suggests that the use of chimpanzees in health research is rarely justified, and the National Institutes of Health has taken it to heart. The organization has placed a temporary ban on using chimps in new research, "effective immediately," the Washington Post reports. A committee will examine research proposals, and current chimp-based research will be shut down if it doesn't fit new, tougher standards, the NIH director said. That likely means the end of about half the 27 current projects backed by the agency.
The report, compiled by the Institute of Medicine at Congress' urging, sets a "very high bar" for justifying chimp research. The animals' intelligence approaches humans', and keeping them in captivity for research carries "a moral cost and ethical issues," said the report committee's chair. The committee found just one disease, hepatitis C, for which researchers might seek chimps. The NIH has now "got it about 90% right," says a rep for a physicians' ethics committee. "The unspoken message is that the era of chimp research for human diseases is ending.”