Assessment of stress in non-human primates: application of the neutrophil activation test
A technique measuring leukocyte (neutrophil) activity was used to examine differences between stress levels in a breeding colony of rhesus macaques housed in either a traditional caging system or open-rooms. The leukocyte activation test measured the degree to which blood from the two treatment groups could launch a further neutrophil response (superoxide production) to an in vitro challenge. Animals housed in a traditional caging system produced a significantly lower leukocyte response than animals housed in open-rooms, indicating that there was a higher level of stress associated with caged housing than open-room housing. This was not influenced by whether animals were physically restrained or trained to stand for a sedating injection. No differences were found between treatment groups in leukocyte numbers or composition. This study validates the use of the leukocyte activation test to assess physiological stress levels in non-human primates and demonstrates the animal welfare benefits of open-room housing over traditional laboratory caging systems.
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