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NIH-funded primate centre accused of mistreatment

A Louisiana primate research centre came under federal investigation last week after an undercover probe by an animal-rights group alleged mistreatment of chimpanzees and monkeys.

The inquiry by the Humane Society of the United States also revealed that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) contracted the facility, the New Iberia Research Center, part of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, to breed infant chimps for research.

Although the NIH has had a moratorium since 1995 on breeding chimps for research, an NIH spokesman says this doesn't cover a US$6-million contract that its National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) made in 2002 with the centre to provide 4–12 infant chimps.

The US Department of Agriculture, which regulates primate facilities, announced an investigation on 5 March. The same day, legislators introduced a bill, the Great Ape Protection Act, seeking to ban all invasive research and testing on the estimated 1,000 research chimpanzees in the country.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta acknowledged that they received eight of the chimps for hepatitis C research under the NIAID contract.

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NIH-funded primate centre accused of mistreatment. Nature 458, 137 (2009).

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