Washington University in St. Louis Insider Alleges Biosafety Violations, Cruelty in School’s Animal Laboratories

PETA Calls On Feds to Investigate Reports of Sloppy, Dangerous Practices

For Immediate Release:
December 6, 2018

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

St. Louis

PETA has filed formal complaints calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare to investigate a whistleblower’s reports of failures to safely and securely handle dangerous pathogens as well as cruelty to animals at Washington University in St. Louis (Wash U).

According to the whistleblower, an experimenter reportedly played on his phone as a dog who’d been used in an experimental surgery howled in pain, mice used in so-called “parabiotic” studies were stitched together along the length of their bodies and injected with viruses, and the top of mice’s skulls was removed and a brain cap surgically implanted. Mice were also deliberately stressed by being stuffed into small test tubes and left on a tray overnight, where they became soaked in their own urine and feces or vomit. The whistleblower shared video evidence that cages in which mice were kept frequently became flooded because of malfunctioning water bottles—causing the animals to develop hypothermia or drown.

The whistleblower also claims that employees in Wash U’s Biosafety Level 2 and 3 laboratories—where drug-resistant tuberculosis, norovirus, West Nile virus, H1N1 influenza, and chikungunya are handled—frequently violate safety protocols and often don’t change clothing when they leave.

“Wash U isn’t a safe place for animals or humans, and if the allegations are correct, the public is at risk, too,” says PETA Research Associate Jeremy Beckham, MPH. “PETA is calling on authorities to investigate this university and hold it accountable for practicing poor science, subjecting vulnerable animals to severe pain, and jeopardizing public health and safety.”

Federal reports corroborate the whistleblower’s concerns. Earlier this year, a dog suffered and died in Wash U’s laboratories after she experienced complications following experimental surgery, and in March 2017, a rabbit died when her body temperature plummeted during an experimental surgery. In both cases, workers failed to seek veterinary care. In August 2017, a macaque monkey “experienced ongoing complications such as hypothermia, hypotension, wet lung sounds and fluid in the endotracheal tube” during an anesthetic procedure.

PETA’s complaints are available upon request. For more information, please visit PETA.org or click here.

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