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U.S. Panel Calls for Limits on Medical Use of Chimpanzees

Most of the chimpanzees supported by the U.S. government for medical research should be retired because their use provides little benefit for biomedical discoveries, a panel recommended.

The government should retire 93 percent of the almost 700 chimpanzees it houses or supports, transferring them to a federal sanctuary, and maintain a population of 50 for future research, a National Institutes of health task force said in a report.

“In light of evidence suggesting that research involving chimpanzees has rarely accelerated new discoveries or the advancement of human health for infectious diseases, with a few notable exceptions such as the hepatitis viruses, the NIH should emphasize the development and refinement of other approaches,” such as genetically altered mice, the group said.

The report released yesterday follows an earlier review sought by the health institutes in response to complaints from U.S. senators and animal-rights groups.

The NIH, based in Bethesda, Maryland, stopped breeding the chimpanzees in 1995. Animal rights groups led by the Washington-based Humane Society of the United States have called on Congress and the government to end chimpanzee research.

The agency will review the recommendations and take public comment on the report for 60 days before announcing a decision in late March, the NIH said in a statement on its website.

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