USDA no longer conducting parasite research testing on kittens

USDA no longer conducting parasite research testing on kittens
The USDA had been using the kittens to study parasites that can cause death to humans from foodborne illness.

(CNN) -Good news for animal lovers everywhere: The United States Department of Agriculture said it’s no longer using kittens in parasite research.

The USDA had a research project where kittens were purposely infected with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite.

That organism causes toxoplasmosis, which officials call a leading cause of death from foodborne illness.

Kittens were used because the USDA said they are the only host in which the parasite can complete its life-cycle and produce eggs.

Last year, lawmakers introduced legislation to stop researchers from using kittens.

The agency posted to its website that “effective immediately at the recommendation of ARS scientists under the leadership of Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young:”

  • USDA toxoplasmosis research is being redirected to other food safety research of high priority for agriculture
  • Use of cats as part of any research protocol in any laboratory in ARS has been discontinued and will not be reinstated.

“Food safety research in ARS is of paramount importance for agriculture and the public we serve,” ARS Administrator Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young said. “We are continually assessing our research and priorities and aligning our resources to the problems of highest national priority. We are excited for the next chapter of work for these scientists and this laboratory.”

The USDA says it hasn't infected a kitten since September and it has now permanently stopped the practice.

There are still more than a dozen kittens in the program, though -- officials say USDA employees will be allowed to adopt them.

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