Animals’ susceptibility plays an important role in assessing the practicability of administering oral rabies vaccines. An oral rabies vaccine may be very effective for foxes because they are very susceptible to the rabies virus, but the same vaccine may not be very effective for skunks that are less susceptible.
To assess whether an oral vaccine will be effective among dogs, researchers have to find out how long the incubation period is in dogs after they are infected with the ferret-badger virus, and whether they will have sufficient time to develop antibodies. These factors will then be the basis for assessing dogs’ susceptibility after infection by the ferret-badger rabies virus.
Respect for life is not a question of whether there is a difference between mice and dogs — their lives are equally worthy of respect. Whether animal experiments should be done depends entirely on their purpose. Are they designed in such a way as to give us information that is useful for preventing disease? If the experiments are not carried out now, is it likely to cause a blind spot in disease prevention in future?
Finding the answers to these questions depends on participation by experts in the field as well as people campaigning for animal welfare and conservation. Only such a partnership can ensure that if animals have to be sacrificed, it will serve an important purpose and safeguard the health of many other animals, and of humans.
Chang Chao-chin is a professor in the Graduate Institute of Microbiology and Public Health at National Chung Hsing University.
Translated by Julian Clegg