A team of investigators is proposing to test an altered live virus vaccine for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) utilizing a free ranging chimpanzee colony. This colony was established for behavioral research studies 20 years earlier on an isolated island near Puerto Rico. Having grown dramatically since its inception, the colony requires daily food supplementation by boat, the support for which is increasingly in jeopardy. The plan is to inject one of the dominant males with HIV and to vaccinate half of the remaining animals, both males and females. All chimpanzees are to be monitored for the development of HIV virus antigens and antibodies, altered T-helper cell numbers, and symptoms. An additional protocol is being formulated that will utilize those animals that become infected for a clinical trial of new chemotherapeutic agents. Chimpanzees were selected because, like humans, they often have multiple sexual partners and are susceptible to the virus.1 Although the vaccine was effective in lower species, including transgenic mice, the research group felt that it was necessary to get a definitive answer under field conditions prior to introducing live retroviruses into uninfected human populations.
As principal reviewer, Edith must advise her colleagues as to the
appropriateness of this use of animals for research purposes.
1 Although chimpanzees do not appear to be as vulnerable to HIV as humans, this scenario was included to add to the ethical dimensions of the case.