[PARAGRAPH ILLEGIBLE] The Indian ban on the export of rhesus monkeys goes into effect at the end of April. This means that the Bureau of Biologies will have to reduce or even suspend the experiments it runs on the monkeys. These experiments test the safety of vaccines to immune [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Americans against polio, the mumps, measles and German measles (rubella).
"We might switch to the long-tailed macaque monkeys or we might have to consider reducing the test we do," said Dr. Bennett Ellisberg, director of the Division of Pathology at the Bureau of Biologies. "That carries a certain risk that we would not feel comfortable with."
Science magazine, where the report first appeared, suggested that an important factor in the Indian ban on monkey exports "may have been reports in the Indian press that the monkeys have been used for eapons-related research conducted by the U.S. Defense Nuclear Agency."
Doctors at the National Institutes of Health say that the Indian government has long been concerned about its depleting stock of rehesus monkeys, in part for religious reasons. Hindus hold monkeys in a certain reverence. The monkey "god" Hanuman, according to Science magazine, is a member of the Hindu pantheon.
"I think that the new prime minister (Desai) is more sensitive to demands of conservationists and religious groups," the Bureau of Bilogics' Ellisberg said. "I think the news that the monkeys were being used in military tests was icing on the cake in this case."
Dr. D. W. McIndoe, director of the [PARAGRAPH ILLEGIBLE]
"I feel very uncomfortable if I'm the bad guy jeopardising our use of rhesus monkeys in the U.S." McIndoe said. "If this so upsets the government of India, I will not use another Indian monkey in these tests."
India exports about 12,000 rhesus monkeys every year to the United States, almost all of them used to test the safety of vaccines. One reason rhesus monkeys have been so used in that thay have been cheap and plentiful. But the main reason is that rhesus monkeys have the same susceptibility to diseases such as polio and measles as humans do.
U.S. vaccine makers use most of the monkeys imported from India. The Bureau of Biologics uses as many as 1,800 rhesus monkeys a year in its tests, some on smallpox, measles, mumps and rubella vaccines and most on live polio vaccine. The United States produces as many as 24 million doses a year of live polio vaccine.
India, the world's largest source of rhesus monkeys, has been reducing its exports to the United States for the last three years. Rhesus monkey exports fell from 30,000 a year in 1975 to 20,000 a year ago and then to an estimated 12,000 in the most recent year.
There was a temporary Indian ban on exports of rhesus monkeys as far back as 1950, again in part for religious reasons. In 1955, the U.S. surgeon general signed an agreement with the Indian government in which he agreed to that imported monkeys "shall be used only for medical research or the production of anti-poliomyelitis vaccine. . ."
Just how long the Armed Forces [PARAGRAPH ILLEGIBLE] rhesus monkeys have been so used
"In my opinion," said the National Instition of Health's Dr. Charles McPherson, who certifies monkeys for NIH program, "such [WORD ILLEGIBLE] use of Indian rhesus monkeys should fall with the spirit of the agreement and should not include military use."
McIndoe insisted that the research done by the Radiobiology Institute on the monkeys was to "prevent harm to humans and to enhance treatment of humans." He said that the radiation injuries suffered by the monkeys were "not painful" and that they succumbed to infections "and nothing else."
The AFRRI director said the monkeys were irradisted while performing tasks "like running in a wheel" or "sitting in a chair punching buttons."
Critics of the neutron bomb claim the monkeys were being used as guinea pigs to test the effects of an enhanced-radiation weapon that could be used on the battlefield against men in combat.