IU Health Medical Library

The Alternative Literature Search

Information requested on animal use protocol forms:

  1. What Alternative Systems exist (i.e., computer models, culture methods) that would delete or decrease the use of animals in this project?
  2. Please provide two methods/sources you have used to determine alternatives to procedures that may cause more than momentary or slight pain or distress.

A frequent question asked by primary investigators is, "What is the literature search for alternatives and why do I have to do it?"

The US Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations (specifically the 1985 Amendment), require the principal investigators to consider alternatives to procedures that may cause more than momentary or slight pain or distress to the animals, and provide a written narrative of the methods used and sources consulted to determine the availability of alternatives, including refinements, reductions, and replacements.

The search for alternatives refers to the three Rs described in the book, The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique (1959) by Russell and Burch. The 3Rs are reduction in the number of animals used, refinement of techniques and procedures to reduce pain or distress, and replacement of animals with non-animal techniques or use of less-sentient species.

  • Refinement: The use of analgesics and analgesia, the use of remote telemetry to increase the quality and quantity of data gathered, and humane endpoints for the animals are examples of refinements.
  • Reduction: The use of shared control groups, preliminary screening in non-animal systems, innovative statistical packages or a consultation with a statistician are examples of reduction alternatives.
  • Replacement: Alternatives such as in vitro, cell culture, tissue culture, models, simulations, etc. are examples of replacement. This is also where you might look for any non-mammalian animal models - fish or invertebrates, for example - that would still give you the data you need.

Before you begin your search:

  • Consider other possible animal or non-animal models (e.g., tissue culture, cell culture, fish, rats, etc.)
  • Consider your objectives and endpoints
  • Note any drugs or compounds used in procedures (e.g., anesthetics, analgesics, test compounds, etc.)
  • Note methods and procedures using animals, paying particular attention to those procedures that may cause pain or distress to the animal.
  • List any potential alternatives (all 3 Rs) of which you are aware (e.g., alternate models, modified techniques, housing modifications, modified restraint, in vitro methods, computer simulations, etc.)
  • Develop a conceptual search strategy using the keywords and concepts you noted above. A search strategy is necessarily flexible, dependent both on the topic and on the database selected. If too many records are retrieved, additional relevant terms may made the results fewer and more useful; if too little is retrieved, fewer terms and a more conceptual approach may identify the relevant material. Use these terms and concepts as needed when searching in your selected databases.

Mesh Subject Heading Search Examples

USDA Animal Welfare Information System

MeSH Medical Subject Headings Used for Animal Research Protocol Forms

Other MeSH Headings Used for Animal Research

Alternative Research Databases:

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  • Agricola - Publications and resources for all aspects of agriculture and allied disciplines.

  • ALTBIB Alternatives to Animal Testing Bibliography: Bibliography on alternatives to the use of live vertebrates in biomedical research and testing.

  • AltTox: A website dedicated to advancing non-animal methods of toxicity testing, both to better protect the health of humans, animals, and the environment and to reduce the numbers and suffering of animals used in current toxicology assessments. AltTox consists of three interconnected components:

    • MAPP (Methods, Approaches, Programs & Policies): Comprehensive information on non-animal methods of toxicity testing not easily found anywhere else on the Web. You will find concisely summarized information relevant to advancing in vitro, in silico, and integrated methods for toxicity testing. | New PerspectivesThe Resource Center | AltTox Community Blog.
  • Altweb: The Alternatives to Animal Testing Web Site, was created to serve as a gateway to alternatives news, information, and resources on the Internet and beyond. Altweb now is the U.S. home of the journal ALTEX: Alternatives to Animal Experimentation, which is the official publication of the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT).

  • Animal Welfare Information Center (AWIC) - US National Agricultural Library produces bibliographies, Special Reference Briefs and Fact Sheets on alternative methods, humane care, euthanasia, ethics, toxicity testing and legislation. Sample Searches
  • AnimAlt-ZEBET: One of the tasks of ZEBET is to provide scientists from industry, universities and public authorities with information on alternative methods in a database developed for that specific purpose. Since February 2000 the ZEBET database on alternative methods to animal experiments has been accessible without license fees on the Internet in German and English through the German Institute for Medical Documentation and Information (DIMDI).

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  • DB-ALM: The Database for Alternative Methods is a public, factual database service that provides evaluated information  on development and applications of advanced and alternative methods to animal experimentation in biomedical sciences and toxicology, both in research and for regulatory purposes.

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  • eMICE (Gov):  National Cancer Institute supports the broad use of animal models in many aspects of cancer research. The NCI designed the eMICE site to offer electronic Models Information, Communication, and Education about the wide variety of animal cancer models. This site introduces aspects of the history of animal research, animal husbandry, techniques for breeding and characterizing animal models, standards for animal use, and sources of animal models
  • EURL-ECVAM - European Union Reference Laboratory for alternatives to animal testing:

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  • FDA Acronyms and Abbreviations (Gov): The FDA Acronyms and Abbreviations database provides a quick reference to acronyms and abbreviations related to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) activities. The emphasis is on scientific, regulatory, government agency, and computer application terms.

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  • Johns Hopkins University Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT):  CAAT is part of the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, with a European branch (CAAT-Europe) located at the University of Kostanz, Germany.  We promote humane science by supporting the creation, development, validation, and use of alternatives to animals in research, product safety testing, and education.

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  • Medline with Full-text (EBSCO): This full-text database provides access to 2,500+ full-text, top-tier biomedical and health journals. Covering a wide range of subjects, it is an essential resource for doctors, nurses, health professionals and researchers engaged in clinical care, public health and health policy development. Access to this resource is provided by INSPIRE the Indiana's Online Library.

  • MEDLINE via PubMed (NLM) with Linkout: MEDLINE contains >20 million references to articles published in >5,500 current biomedical journals from the United States and 80 other countries. This specific link will direct you to IU Health holdings for full-text. PubMed Tutorials.

  • Medline (Ovid): Ovid MEDLINE ® covers the international literature on biomedicine, including the allied health fields and the biological and physical sciences, humanities, and information science as they relate to medicine and health care. Information is indexed from approximately 5,600 journals published world-wide. Records start in the early 1800's and go all the way to our daily updates. Specific date ranges can be specified by the use of URL's. The link associated with this description covers 1996 to Present with Weekly Update.

  • Mednar.com: A free, medically-focused deep web search engine. It will perform a search of authoritative public and deep web resources, returning the most relevant results to one easily navigable page.

  • Merck Veterinary Manual, 11th ed.: This online reference provides veterinarians and other animal health professionals with concise and authoritative information about diseases and management for companion, laboratory, and exotic animals.

  • Mouse Genome Informatics: The international database resource for the laboratory mouse, providing integrated genetic, genomic, and biological data to facilitate the study of human health and disease.

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  • PubMed: citations for biomedical literature from . Citations and abstracts from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books include the fields of biomedicine, health, life sciences, behavioral sciences, chemical sciences, and bioengineering.

    • ALTBIB - Alternatives to Animal Testing Bibliography: Bibliography on alternatives to the use of live vertebrates in biomedical research and testing.

    • Bioethics (Gov): The Bioethics Information Resource page provides links to a pre-formulated PubMed search and other resources addressing Bio-ethics.

    • PubMed Special Queries: Directory of topic-specific PubMed queries including AIDS, Bioethics, Cancer, Space Life Sciences as well as Clinical Queries along with many other search strategies.

    • MEDLINE®/PubMed® Resources Guide

    • PubMed Help and Tutorials.

    • Veterinary Science Search and Veterinary Information Resources: The MEDLINE®/PubMed® Veterinary Science search retrieves citations to journal literature, combining subject search terms, title words, and veterinary and animal health journal titles.

    • PubMed with IUH Holdings (NLM): This version of PubMed offers direct links to much of the full-text subscribed to by the IU Health Medical Library. Off campus access to subscribed content requires Athens authentication.

  • PUBPDF: Find full text articles from millions of scientific publications.

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  • Recalls.gov (Gov): A service for alerting the American people to unsafe, hazardous or defective products. Six federal agencies (Consumer Product safety Commission, FDA, Environmental protection Agency, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, US Coast Guard and the US Department of Agriculture) with vastly different jurisdictions have joined together to create www.recalls.gov -- a "one stop shop" for U.S. Government recalls. Drug Recalls can also be located at: FDA Drug Recalls, Market Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts.

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  • Science.gov (Gov): Searches over 45 databases and 2,000 websites from 14 federal agencies, offering authoritative US government science information, including research and development results.

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  • TOXNET® (Gov): TOXicology Data NETwork is a group of databases covering chemicals and drugs, diseases and the environment, environmental

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