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NIH limits animal studies at Columbia.

NIH limits animal studies at columbia

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) last week suspended a portion of its funding for animal resarch at Columbia University in New York City after an unannounced site inspection by the agency turned up serious animal-care deficiencies. This is the first such suspension ordered since the agency's new animal-welfare accreditation rules went into effect Dec. 31 (SN: 11/2/85, p. 281).

The suspension involves only research conducted at the university's health sciences division -- which includes the medical school -- and is limited to studies using vertebrates, including dogs and sheep, above the level of rodents. Columbia hopes that its immediate steps to overcome the stated deficiencies will permit reinstatement of curtailed research funds within six weeks, according to university spokes-person Mae Rudolph. Though the university did not disclose how many research studies are affected, it said that at least 75 percent of the animals used in health sciences research are rodents.

A preliminary, unpublished report by NIH's surprise-inspection team challenged the adequacy of the division's veterinary care program, the sterility maintained during major surgery, the housing for dogs under quarantine and the techniques used to minimize health risks to laboratory personnel.

These deficiencies, cited as reasons for the suspension in a Jan. 27 letter to Columbia by NIH Director James B. Wyngaarden, were no surprise to university officials. Last year, recognizing that there were deficiencies, the health sciences division began a major, long-range program of improvements," the university noted in a statement issued earlier this week. Moreover, Columbia requested and got an audience with NIH animal-care officials last December to discuss these deficiencies and the university's attempts to rectify them, according to William Dommel, assistant director of NIH's Office of Protection from Research Risks, in Bethesda, Md., which oversees animal-welfare rules.

The unannounced site visit, Dommel says, was triggered by two things: letters to NIH officials, including its director, complaining about the care and abuse of laboratory animals; adn the university's own report on its animal-care program -- a report required (under the new NIH animal-welfare rules) of all research institutions receiving funds from the Public Health Service, NIH's parent agency.

Dommel's office is in the preliminary phase of reviewing more than 600 other animal-welfare assurance reports submitted under those new rules.
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Title Annotation:National Institutes of Health
Author:Raloff, Janet
Publication:Science News
Date:Feb 8, 1986
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