Challenging misleading information about malaria research

Peta have today started promoting a petition to end malaria research using monkeys at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. The petition bases itself on three untruths about the important research with monkeys that is carried out at the Karolinska. Peta claim the following:

  • The monkeys are infected with malaria
    FALSE: The monkeys are not infected with the malaria parasite: they are used in a pre-clinical study to test a new malaria vaccine. For that purpose, the scientists inject the monkeys with the malaria vaccine, and monitor the immune response by periodically collecting blood samples. The monkeys are not infected with the malaria parasite itself, as the necessary information about their immune response can be gathered from the blood samples.
  • The monkeys are subjected to painful procedures for five years
    FALSE: Blood samples are classed as mild procedures. They are drawn once or twice per month for at least nine months. The monkeys are sedated for the ten-minute duration of the blood sample collection. This information does not quite add up to the ‘painful procedures’ that Peta speak of.
  • The monkeys are kept in barren cages
    FALSE: The monkey facility at the Karolinska Institutet is of outstanding quality. The monkeys are kept in social groups of two or three in spacious housing, with high levels of enrichment. You can read much more about the high standard of housing on the Karolinska Institutet’s own website about their monkey facility.

Peta’s petition to stop the monkey research at the Karolinska Institutet comes after similar misleading campaigns by the Animal Justice Project and Swedish animal rights group Djurrättsalliansen. By campaigning against the monkey research at the Karolinska Institutet, these groups are endangering the World Health Organisation’s target of reducing global malaria incidence and mortality rates by at least 90% by 2030, by hindering important research that could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of children each year.

Malaria key facts

  • Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female mosquitoes.
  • About 3.2 billion people – almost half of the world’s population – are at risk of malaria. Most malaria cases and deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. However, Asia, Latin America, and, to a lesser extent, the Middle East, are also at risk. In 2015, 97 countries and territories had ongoing malaria transmission.
  • Young children, pregnant women and non-immune travellers from malaria-free areas are particularly vulnerable to the disease when they become infected.
  • Malaria is preventable and curable, and increased efforts are dramatically reducing the malaria burden in many places.
  • Between 2000 and 2015, malaria incidence among populations at risk (the rate of new cases) fell by 37% globally. In that same period, malaria death rates among populations at risk fell by 60% globally among all age groups, and by 65% among children under 5. The latest vaccine approved for children between 6 weeks and 17 months was the result of years of research, including research on monkeys.