About the Comparative Medicine Branch

NIAID is committed to the use of animals only when alternative methods are unavailable. The Institute fully complies with federal rules, regulations, and policies pertaining to the care and use of animals in medical research.

Research to understand and develop new treatments for allergies and infectious diseases often requires the use of laboratory animals. The care and treatment of these animals can profoundly affect experimental results. An animal's environment, its daily care, the presence or absence of disease-causing organisms, and the amount of pain or distress that an animal experiences may affect the validity of research data generated through the use of animals. NIAID intramural scientists are sensitive to these factors and understand their ethical responsibility for ensuring that animals used in research receive high-quality care. All NIAID scientists conducting research that involves animals attend a National Institutes of Health (NIH) training course ("Using Animals in Intramural Research") that offers a broad perspective on current animal issues and provides specific information on techniques and procedures.

It is the responsibility of CMB to provide daily care to animals maintained within NIAID animal facilities (other than those located at the Vaccine Research Center or Rocky Mountain Laboratories) and to assist the NIAID Animal Care and Use Committee with the oversight of NIAID's program of animal care and use, including intramural contracts and inter- and intra-agency agreements involving animals. CMB is also responsible for assisting NIAID scientists with animal-related issues, overseeing the construction and renovation of animal facilities, and assisting the Division of Intramural Research Director with planning for future animal-related requirements.

CMB maintains animals in four facilities on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland (approximately 36,400 square feet), and two in Rockville, Maryland (approximately 22,000 square feet). CMB provides guidance to the Institute's intramural scientists using animals in research projects. This guidance includes

  • Assisting with the development, annual review and renewal of Animal Study Proposals
  • Developing standard operating procedures
  • Purchasing animals
  • Importing and exporting animals from and to locations all over the world
  • Performing technical procedures on laboratory animals
  • Diagnosing, treating, and controlling infectious agents
  • Using NIH shared and central animal facilities
  • Selecting and properly administering anesthetics and analgesics
  • Tracking animal cage information through an interactive website

NIAID investigators maintain production colonies of more than 100 different strains of mice within government animal facilities. Many of these animals are unavailable anywhere else in the world or are available only after long delays.

Animal Study Proposal Writing

The Division of Intramural Research (DIR) complies with the U.S. Government Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals, the Public Health Service (PHS) Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, the Animal Welfare Act, and all applicable Animal Welfare Regulations.

The DIR Animal Care and Use program complies with the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals and operates in accord with the NIH Animal Research Advisory Committee (ARAC) Guidelines, except where the latter are superseded by approved DIR Animal Care and Use Committee (ACUC) policy.

The ACUC is a federally mandated committee, appointed by the NIAID director of intramural research, that ensures the care and use of animals is appropriate, humane, and in accordance with animal welfare regulations. The ACUC oversees the animal program, facilities, and procedures, including the key functions of reviewing and approving requests to use animals in research under Animal Study Proposals (ASP). The ASP form is a required document, mandated by federal regulations, that describes and justifies in detail the use of animals in experiments.

Personnel Training Requirements

All persons listed on the ASP must receive the appropriate training for the research being performed. The principal investigator is responsible for ensuring that everyone listed on the ASP, including him or herself, receives the appropriate training and completes a Training and Experience Form (available to NIAID employees on the intranet. For more information, email the ACUC Office). The principal investigator is also responsible for ensuring that each person listed on the ASP reviews and understands the content of the ASP and is familiar with the Comparative Medicine Branch and ACUC Internet and intranet sites.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Intramural Research Program Office of Animal Care and Use Training Resources outlines the minimal training requirements for principal investigators and other animal users.

Personnel Safety Requirements

The Animal Exposure Program (AEP) is administered by the NIH Occupational Medical Service, located in Bldg. 10 on the NIH main campus. OMS provides information on the AEP and coordinates enrollment. Completed AEP forms should be sent to the ACUC Office. For more information, email the ACUC Office.

Facility Orientation

Investigators and scientists requiring access to DIR-operated animal facilities must be on an approved ASP. Once they are added to an ASP, they are required to schedule an animal facility orientation. This orientation is coordinated through each of the animal facility managers for each of the facilities for which the investigator requires access.

The animal facility orientation will provide an overview of animal holding, technical services, and standard operating procedures. Investigators will be given a tour and an introduction to key personnel, such as the facility manager, facility veterinarian, technical team, and animal caretaker responsible for the animals.

ASP Contacts

After the investigator or scientist has completed the facility orientation requirements, he or she must obtain access to the specific building or room by providing identifying cardkey information to the Comparative Medicine Branch facility manager. This information will be forwarded to the DIR Animal Resources Program Manager, who will submit it to the NIH Division of Public Safety for processing.

For additional information about animal study proposals and animal welfare concerns, email the ACUC Office.

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