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J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci. 2009 Nov;48(6):785-9.

Evaluation of rapid cooling and tricaine methanesulfonate (MS222) as methods of euthanasia in zebrafish (Danio rerio).

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University Laboratory Animal Resources, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


Despite the progressively increasing use of zebrafish (Danio rerio) in research, the most humane method of euthanasia for these fish has not been determined. Contemporary guidance documents state that hypothermia is an unacceptable method of euthanasia. The goal of this study was to compare rapid cooling and tricaine methanesulfonate (MS222) for zebrafish euthanasia. Zebrafish (n = 46) were euthanized by immersion in either an ice-water (4 degrees C or less) bath or unbuffered MS222 solution (250 mg/L; 25 to 30 degrees C). Another cohort (n = 10) was exposed to buffered MS222 to determine whether the acidity of the water alone caused distress. The times from exposure until the animals became unable to swim, right themselves, and death were measured, and signs of distress were recorded. Fish then were placed in a 'recovery tank' of system water to verify that recovery did not occur. Tissues were examined histologically. The mean time for euthanasia was longer and the number of fish exhibiting signs of distress was greater for fish exposed to MS222 than those exposed to chilled water. In addition, 4 of the 23 fish exposed to MS222 regained consciousness in the recovery tank, whereas none of 23 fish exposed to chilled water recovered. No histopathologic changes or evidence of ice crystal formation were seen in either group. In light of the faster time to death and fewer signs of distress in zebrafish euthanized by rapid cooling, we advocate this method as a humane veterinary practice.

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