Ray Greek and Lawrence A Hansen
While the use of sentient animals in biomedical research is known to be ethically contentious, the fact that scientific issues surround the practice is typically ignored. The justification for using sentient animals in research relies on the alleviation of human suffering that purportedly results from such studies and that such breakthroughs cannot occur without studying whole, intact, biological systems. As all biological systems are examples of evolved complex systems, we question the ability of one evolved complex system to predict outcomes for a second. A classic claim regarding the advances in medical care arising from the use of intact sentient animals in research is the discovery and development of antibacterial agents. We give a brief overview of infectious disease research in the 19th century, then examine the history of antibacterials in the first half of the 20th century. We focus on the use of intact sentient animals to test antibacterials for efficacy and side effects-which is also the primary use of animal models in drug development today. As the development of antibacterials is frequently cited as an illustration of the necessity of using intact animal models in drug development, we also examine the impact this position has had on drug development in general. The development of antibacterials, and drugs in general, is placed in the context of evolution, complexity science, and conserved processes. We conclude that the commonly related history revolving around the necessity of intact animal models in the development of antibacterials is not entirely accurate and that this finding has ethical, financial, legal, medical, and scientific ramifications.