LaFollette, M. R., Cunningham-Faughnan, T., Foley, P. L. et al. 2021. Replacing soiled bedding sentinel rodents with environmental health monitoring: Evidence and tips. Laboratory Animal Science Professional 9(6) (November/December), 46-48.
Traditional rodent health monitoring programs involve transferring soiled bedding from colony cages to sentinel cages. While it can vary, the sentinel animals are ultimately euthanized after 3-6 mo of soiled bedding exposure. Using traditional soiled bedding sentinel rodents has several disadvantages and limitations. Considering there is new technology available, decreasing or eliminating soiled bedding sentinels follows the 3Rs principles by replacing animal use. A viable, evidence-based replacement for soiled bedding sentinels is with environmental health monitoring strategies. This technology takes advantage of molecular-based diagnostics to indirectly test colony animals by sampling for the same pathogens from their environment. In general, environmental monitoring can include a variety of sampling methods that perform colony health surveillance without the use of live “sentinel” animals. It has several advantages over soiled bedding sentinels. Thus far, over 20 peer-reviewed research papers from the past 8 y shows that environmental monitoring is more effective for health surveillance (see www.na3rsc.org/health-monitoring for a full list of references).