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Animal abuse at malaria research center

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the leading biomedical science funding agency in the USA, has halted funding for a Colombian malaria research facility that was closed for mistreating animals used in scientific experiments. The Caucaseco Scientific Research Center, located in the city of Cali and run by husband-and-wife team Myriam Arévalo-Herrera and Sócrates Herrera, has received a total of US$17.6 million from the NIH since 2003, but is no longer eligible to receive any further funding.

In January, the Colombian government suspended all research on primates at the center after an investigation by the animal rights organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) found evidence that monkeys were being mistreated and accused the institution of falsifying ethics approvals for experiments — the revelation puts in question the integrity of 24 articles published in journals such as Nature Communications, Redox Biology, Vaccine, PLOS ONE, and PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. The investigation also found that the center paid its employees lower salaries than it reported to the NIH and even infected one of them with malaria due to biosafety failures.

The Colombian government closed the facility in March. At the time, 100 Hamlyn’s monkeys (Cercopithecus hamlyni) were found in rusty cages full of feces in a brightly lit and poorly ventilated space. One infant was found dead and 21 animals from the center’s records were nowhere to be found. In April, authorities removed 180 laboratory rats, which were the last animals living at the center.