Animal welfare in studies on murine tuberculosis: assessing progress over a 12-year period and the need for further improvement

PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47723. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047723. Epub 2012 Oct 26.


There is growing concern over the welfare of animals used in research, in particular when these animals develop pathology. The present study aims to identify the main sources of animal distress and to assess the possible implementation of refinement measures in experimental infection research, using mouse models of tuberculosis (TB) as a case study. This choice is based on the historical relevance of mouse studies in understanding the disease and the present and long-standing impact of TB on a global scale. Literature published between 1997 and 2009 was analysed, focusing on the welfare impact on the animals used and the implementation of refinement measures to reduce this impact. In this 12-year period, we observed a rise in reports of ethical approval of experiments. The proportion of studies classified into the most severe category did however not change significantly over the studied period. Information on important research parameters, such as method for euthanasia or sex of the animals, were absent in a substantial number of papers. Overall, this study shows that progress has been made in the application of humane endpoints in TB research, but that a considerable potential for improvement remains.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Experimentation / ethics
  • Animal Experimentation / standards*
  • Animal Welfare / standards*
  • Animal Welfare / trends
  • Animals
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Mice
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / physiopathology*

Grant support

Nuno H. Franco is funded by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (SFRH/BD/38337/2007). The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. This work is funded by FEDER funds through the Operational Competitiveness Programme - COMPETE and by national funds through FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia under the project FCOMP-01-0124-FEDER-022718 (PEst-C/SAU/LA0002/2011.