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Guinea Pigs in Research

Guinea pigs accounted for 183,237 of the animals covered under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) that were used in research and teaching in the U.S. in 2016. In that year, they were the AWA-covered species most commonly used in research protocols and accounted for 22% of animals used. While the use of guinea pigs in research has declined over the last few decades, this has been attributed to the increased use of mice, who are excluded from coverage by the AWA.

Many different strains of guinea pigs have been described, five of which are often used in research. The most commonly used variety is the short-haired American or English guinea pig, which also happens to be the most popular companion animal variety.

Guinea pigs were among the first widely used animal in the research laboratory and have been used as an animal model for over 200 years, which is why the term “guinea pig” is associated with scientific experimentation. Guinea pigs were originally used for infectious disease research, including studies of tuberculosis and diphtheria. They continue to be used as models in infectious disease studies. They are also used for a wide range of other topics including safety tests and toxicity studies; allergy research; research involving the respiratory, nervous, and immune systems; nutritional research; and auditory system studies.