COVID-19: Animal Care and Use

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Updates on COVID-19: Animal Care and Use (IACUC)

Researchers should review Penn State’s phases for gradually returning to on-campus research, which were announced by the Senior Vice President for Research on May 19, 2020. Although aligned with Pennsylvania’s phases, Penn State’s Return to Research Phases are separate and distinct from the Commonwealth’s color-coded phases and are moving at a different pace. The University is currently in Phase 3; with some exceptions, animal research is allowed with approval from unit leaders (deans, chancellors, and institute directors). See FAQs for more details.

This webpage has been created to share the answers to COVID-19-related questions as pertains to animal care, use, and oversight. For more information on on other research areas visit https://www.research.psu.edu/covid

Last updated August 6 with updates to FAQs. 

 

IACUC Operations

The Penn State and Penn State College of Medicine IACUC groups continue to conduct official business, including but not limited to: meeting regularly to review the Program of Animal Care and Use, conducting protocol review and approval, accepting reports of and investigating animal welfare concerns, reporting to federal agencies and AAALACi and completing grant congruency reviews. 

IACUC staff are available to answer questions, assist in protocol preparation and provide remote training and consultation as needed. See contact information below:

 

Animal Facilities

The Animal Resource Programs (ARP)  at both University Park and the College of Medicine will continue to operate as normal. Animal facilities must be maintained at a level to ensure animal welfare. Principal investigators and unit managers of animal housing sites NOT managed by ARP are responsible for continued care. Investigator labs must keep ARP informed if their personnel are not able to care for their animals on study. If staff are unable to keep up with breeding colonies, study humane endpoints, etc., ARP must be notified using the contact information below: 

  • University Park: 814-865-1495 to be connected to a veterinarian or directed to the on-call number outside of office hours.
  • College of Medicine: 717-531-8460.

When in Research Phase 3 status, personnel who are permitted to enter Penn State laboratory facilities may enter the ARP vivarium space and must follow the ARP facility entry guidelines:

  • Each lab should schedule activities such that the minimum number of personnel are present in the animal facilities at the same time.
  • Personnel entering the vivarium space must provide their own facemask and follow hygiene and social distancing guidelines . 

Additionally, research conducted at Penn State Agricultural facilities that has been identified as critical and may continue, as well as wildlife Research conducted in the field where there is little contact with other people and represents minimal risk. Travel to and from the field sites should address social distancing (1 person per vehicle or special arrangements). 

Review the Guidelines for Maintenance Breeding during research reduction. 

 

See below for answers to Frequently Asked Questions regarding IACUC and ARP updates related to COVID-19.

As they prepare for fall classes, instructors may need to modify instructional methods or the timing of certain activities. If there will be changes that involve the use of animals, instructors should review their IACUC protocols and submit amendments if needed. Possible changes that would require modifications include but are not limited to the following:

  • Video recording or live streaming of animals or related procedures 
  • An increase in the numbers of animals needed to accommodate different group sizes or distancing requirements
  • The potential reuse of animals
  • A change in procedures to be conducted or species to be used

With the research ramp-up in progress, Principal Investigators should review their protocols carefully to determine if the work with animals will be conducted as written in the protocol. If not, an amendment must be submitted to update the protocol accordingly. Potential changes include but are not limited to the following:

  • Experiment modifications 
  • Timing of procedures
  • Age of animals at the time of use
  • Experimental groups or design 
  • Details of procedures conducted
  • Increase in animal numbers for breeding/experiments
  • Note: the number of animals used to date on protocols includes any euthanized without assignment to an experiment. 
  • As always, animals bred should be counted as used at the time of birth and all animal usage should be tracked, accurate, and up to date.

The IACUC will continue to review submissions to the committee during this time. Submissions can be made as usual (via CATS IACUC and/or email). IACUC administrators will continue to provide service to researchers. Please contact the IACUC Office for assistance: Hershey Campus (IACUC@pennstatehealth.psu.edu, x285895 or x285571), University Park (ORP-IACUC@psu.edu, 814-865-8897). Email and phones will continue to be monitored.

For Research Phase 2 or lower, except for essential research, animal orders will no longer be accepted. Pending orders will be cancelled.

When in Research Phase 3 or above, animal orders may be placed to support new animal work.

For Research Phase 2  or lower, ARP will continue placing orders for the critical supplies in support of research and needed to ensure animal health and wellbeing (e.g., feed, bedding, critical care veterinary supplies). Procurement of all noncritical supplies will be temporarily placed on hold. Customers will be notified once normal purchasing operations resume.

Upon transition to Phase 3 or above, ARP will resume placing orders for supplies and medications.

When in Research Phase 2 or lower, all in-person training classes and workshops available through ARP will be put on hold.

Upon transition to Research Phase 3, ARP will provide training as needed. Procedures for providing training will be modified as needed to accommodate the safety of both trainers and participants. Please contact the Animal Resource Program office to request training (ARP@PSU.edu; 865-1495).

Required IACUC training modules, available online through the CITI Program website may be taken online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from anywhere.

IACUC Office staff are available for assistance remotely via email:

 

When in Research Phase 2 or lower, postpone any activities or experiments that are not time-sensitive.

The conduct of all animal activities should be carefully planned by the PI or lead research team member. These plans should include, for example, making sure an adequate number of research staff members are present to conduct the activity before it is started and that social distancing practices can be followed as much as possible. In addition, planning should include ensuring postprocedural care, such as providing analgesics and performing routine observations. Finally, veterinary staff should be aware and engaged, as necessary, when performing any complex procedures, especially in non-rodent mammals.

Veterinary personnel will continue to monitor reports on risks related to research animals and communicate those with the research community. 

For information on animals and COVID review these AVMA and CDC resources.

Penn State campuses with a COVID status of Research Phase 2 or lower must adhere to all of the following. When in Research Phase 3 and above can disregard bullets 5 and 6 as those same limitations do not apply.

  1. Identify emergency personnel and ensure they know what to do as normal operations are suspended. 
  2. Remind lab personnel of your communication plan or create one if not in place.
  3. Prioritize personnel in case of restricted access.
  4. Create a plan to manage ongoing care of animals in the event of staffing or shortage supplies.
  5. Limit breeding activities to levels that maintain replacement breeders only.
  6. Do not initiate any new animal studies.
  7. Consider cryopreservation of precious rodent lines

    • At University Park Contact Randy Rossi 814–865–7059.
    • At Hershey, contact Alane Seidel by email, aseidel@pennstatehealth.psu.edu or by phone, 717-531-8460.
  8. Identify critical/priority cages (founder stock for breeding colonies, irreplaceable animals, etc.)
  9. Ensure remote access to files, data, servers, etc.
  10. Plan for remote proposal/protocol submission.

Yes. Even if the research is not currently active, the PI must still submit the annual or three-year renewal to ensure continuity of approval. This will allow research to begin again immediately when permitted. Failure to submit the Review will result in lapse of approval and study closure. If the study is closed, the study cannot be re-opened without submitting a new application and all research activities must stop until the new application is approved.

Essential research is ongoing, long-term animal studies for which premature termination would result in loss of critical data and the waste of animal subjects; and completion of studies scheduled to conclude within the next few weeks. Please see full information from OSVPR. Even if the research is not currently active, the PI must still submit the annual or three-year renewal to ensure continuity of approval. This will allow research to begin again immediately when permitted. Failure to submit the Review will result in lapse of approval and study closure. If the study is closed, the study cannot be re-opened without submitting a new application and all research activities must stop until the new application is approved.