Letter: Why We Do Need Animal Testing

Article excerpt

YOU DEVOTE three pages to describing the "success" of animal- rights co-ordinator Heather James in closing breeding establishments for laboratory animals ("Return of the feline avenger", Review, 24 October). Nowhere was there a reference to the important benefits to seriously ill humans from animal experiments conducted according to high veterinary and ethical standards.

I am a consultant in newborn intensive care and have worked clinically with sick newborn babies for over 20 years. Like virtually all hospitals delivering babies in developed countries we use two life-saving treatments that would never have been discovered and developed without the use of animal experimentation: corticosteroids, given to mothers about to give birth prematurely; and surfactant, given into the lungs of premature babies whose breathing has failed.

These two treatments were developed as a result of initial animal research on the normal control processes which bring about maturation of the foetal lungs and the start of labour. When treatment possibilities became apparent, they were tried out in animal simulations of premature birth. When they were consistently shown to be effective in maturing baby animal lungs without dangerous side effects, clinical trials in pregnant women and premature babies were started. Both treatments have been subjected to extensive testing and consistently reduce death in babies by about 40 per cent when compared to matched cases not treated. At a rough estimate, the lives of 500 to 1,000 babies are saved each year in the UK by consistently using these two treatments. World-wide, many thousands of children are thus, each year, given the chance of life they would otherwise be denied. …