Comparative Medicine at the Integrated Research Facility (IRF)

Major Areas of Research

  • Animal facility maintenance, animal care, and husbandry
  • Animal acquisition
  • Animal study support
  • Maintaining the health of the animal colony
  • Supporting the animal regulatory program

Program Description

The IRF animal facility is staffed and operated currently by 14 contract personnel consisting of 1 veterinarian, 1 animal facility manager, 7 animal technicians, 5 cagewash and animal care personnel, and 1 animal program/IACUC coordinator. One IRF CRL employee is stationed permanently at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Animal Center in Poolesville, Maryland, supporting SIV research for the NIAID Division of Clinical Research.

Comparative Medicine (CM) personnel support multiple imaging sessions at NIHAC Poolesville, as well as imaging studies at NIH-Bethesda at Building 10 for neuroimaging and encephalitis. These off-site activities are approximately 36 hours per month.

There are five functional workflows supporting CM operations. All are interconnected and routinely interdependent, as they contribute to the primary mission of IRF animal research support:

  1. Animal facility maintenance, animal care and husbandry
    The vivarium operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The animal facility manager, in conjunction with the veterinary program manager, maintains an up-to-date weekend/holiday/emergency on-call roster that includes animal caretakers, animal technicians, clinical veterinarians, and pathologists (who provide input).
  2. Animal acquisition
    CM personnel are responsible for ordering and receiving the study animals.
  3. Animal study support
    CM personnel provide study support. They perform diagnostics and study procedures such as animal anesthesia, blood draws, bowel movement collections, bronchoalveolar lavage, lymph node biopsies, endoscopic exams, and ultrasound exams.
  4. Maintain the health of the animal colony
    A primary function of the CM is to provide the most complete health status possible to investigators, to allow them to make critical decisions about assignment and use of animals in conducting their studies. Nonhuman primates are identified, and a medical record is established and annotated. CM staff perform pre-arrival physical exams on the animals at NIHAC, as well as baseline physical exams upon receipt and assignment at IRF to a specific animal study. Nonhuman primates coming from other facilities will be accompanied by their medical records, which are reviewed and used to determine study assignment. The IRF arrival health assessment includes physical, CBC, serum chems, and imaging baselines. Animals are observed daily by technical staff for health issues and are treated as appropriate. Rodents are ordered from vendors, and daily observations are recorded.
  5. Support the regulatory animal program
    CM staff members are an integral part of the maintenance of an animal program that is compliant with NIH and industry standards. Veterinarians, the animal facility manager, and the IACUC coordinator participate in IACUC meetings and deliberations, perform protocol reviews and protocol pre-reviews, assist in writing protocols, review modification requests, write IACUC reports, and prep for and participate in AAALAC Program Description development and accreditation site visits.
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