Why we conduct animal experiments
A precise understanding of infection processes from the molecular to the organismal level is necessary to improve the diagnosis and therapy of infections. At the Leibniz-HKI, we specifically focus on fungal infections, which can be life-threatening, in particular for immunocompromised people. We study both the isolated pathogens and their interaction with human cells and tissues. To determine how a pathogen colonises and spreads in the host organism, which organs it affects and how the immune system reacts to it, we also conduct animal studies. We also use animal experiments to test the toxicity and therapeutic efficacy of newly discovered anti-infectives. For these studies of infections and anti-infectives, we have established various mouse infection models. Here, the animal experiment always comes at the end of a long series of non-animal experiments.
How we conduct animal experiments
We obtain the animals from reputable and certified facilities. The husbandry of the animals and the experiments themselves take place in purpose-built safety laboratories where special emphasis is placed on animal welfare and minimising suffering. Researchers may only conduct experiments that have been reviewed by the ethics committee and approved by the competent authority. When planning and carrying out experiments, we always ensure that the greatest possible scientific knowledge is gained with the least possible use of animals and by avoiding suffering as far as possible. To this end, we have established strict internal quality control, which also includes the establishment of humane endpoints. These are clinical parameters that provide information about the stress to which the laboratory animals are exposed. By using humane endpoints, we can significantly reduce the stress on the animals by stopping the experiment at low or moderate stress levels. Furthermore, the use of modern imaging techniques and the use of bioluminescent reporter strains allows a drastic reduction in the number of animals used in infectious disease research. In addition to the internal controls, external quality assurance is carried out regularly by the responsible monitoring authority.
At the end of the experiment, all animals are euthanised in accordance with animal welfare requirements and subjected to post-mortem examinations. In the process, we obtain samples of various organs, which we use for extensive follow-up studies. These include, for example, histological examinations, quantification of the germ load, analysis of the immune reaction by means of flow cytometry and ELISA as well as transcription analyses. Organs or sample material that we do not analyse directly for the experiment are archived and made available to cooperation partners – this further reduces the number of animal experiments.