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Guinea Pigs

August 20, 2009

A listener asks why guinea pigs aren’t often used as laboratory animals anymore.


The trouble with guinea pigs. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

When listener Karen Hopkins wrote to ask why guinea pigs were replaced by rats in most laboratories, we reported on how suitable rats were for lab testing. Unsatisfied with our response, she still wants to know what’s wrong with guinea pigs. So we spoke with Ron Franklin, senior director at Array BioPharma. He said guinea pigs are still used for allergy and asthma research.

So the guinea pig is a good animal model for that. It’s just that in terms of toxicology testing over long periods of time, the guinea pig is not very good. It’s quite frail, in fact. / They’re not as robust as mice and rats.

He adds that despite advances in computer modeling and other methods, testing drugs in live animals is still the only way to ensure their safety in humans. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.