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Welfare Assessment of Adult Laboratory Zebrafish: A Practical Guide


14 Aug 2021

Sabrautzki S, Miller M, Kague E, Brielmeier M.

Teleost fish such as Danio rerio (zebrafish) have been successfully used in biomedical research since decades. Genetically altered fish lines obtained by state-of-the-art genetic technologies are serving as well-known model organisms. In Europe, following Directive 2010/63/EU, generation, breeding, and husbandry of new genetically altered lines of laboratory animals require governmental state approval in case pain, suffering, distress, or long-lasting harm to the offspring derived by breeding of these lines cannot be excluded. The identification and assessment of pain, distress, or harm, according to a severity classification of mild, moderate, severe, or humane endpoint, became a new challenging task for all scientists, animal technicians, and veterinarians for daily work with laboratory zebrafish. In this study, we describe the performance of the assessment of welfare parameters of selected pathologic phenotypes and abnormalities frequently found in laboratory fish facilities based on veterinary, biological, and physiological aspects by using a dedicated score sheet. In a colony of zebrafish, we evaluated the frequency of genotype-independent abnormalities observed within 3 years. We give examples for severity classification and measures once an abnormality has been identified according to the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement).

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