"For the recognition of the symptomatology of acute poisoning in man, and for the determination of the human lethal dose, the LD50 in animals is of very little value." Prof. G. Zbinden, Institute of Toxicologv, Zurich.
Rabbits are the favorite animal for eye irritation tests but once again the reason is not scientific. In fact, the rabbit eye is widely acknowledged to be a poor model for the human eye.(17) Nevertheless the Draize test traditionally uses the albino rabbit because it is cheap, readily available, easy to handle and has a large eye for assessing test results.(18) While there may still be species differences, results from primates are considered more relevant but, fortunately for them, drawbacks such as expense, availability and temperament have largely precluded their use for eye irritation tests.(18)
The Draize eye irritancy test: "It has not been possible for us to use the results of rabbit studies to predict accurately the actual irritation that might occur in humans after accidental exposure." Procter & Gamble scientists, Toxicology & Applied Pharmacology. 701-710, vol. 6, 1964
Rabbits are one of the two or three species routinely used to test for birth defects. The decision follows the observation that rabbits are one of the few animals to react like humans to thalidomide. But this is no guarantee that they will react like us to every other drug. Indeed, the widely used drug cortisone produces birth defects in rabbits (19) but is considered safe for pregnant women.(20)
Rabbits are also the favorite animal in atherosclerosis research despite substantial differences between the artificially induced condition and the naturally arising disorder in people. Pigs are considered the best model for the human disease but they are regarded as expensive and difficult to work with, so rabbits have become the species of choice. As David Gross points out in his book Animal Models in Cardiovascular Research (1985), this is because they are "easy to feed, care for and handle. They are readily available and inexpensive."
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