Zoopharmacognosy in Diseased Laboratory Mice: Conflicting Evidence
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Zoopharmacognosy denotes a constellation of learned ingestive responses that promote healing and survival of infected or poisoned animals. A similar self-medication phenomenon was reported in diseased laboratory rodents. In particular, a series of studies revealed that autoimmune MRL/lpr mice readily consume solutions paired or laced with cyclophosphamide (CY), an immunosuppressive drug that prevents inflammatory damage to internal organs. However, due to design limitations, it could not be elucidated whether such a response reflects the learned therapeutic effect of CY, or a deficit in sensory input. We presently assess the behavioural effects of prolonged consumption of CY-laced, 16% sucrose solution in a continuous choice paradigm, with tap water available ad lib. Contrary to overall expectation, MRL/lpr mice did not increase their intake of CY with disease progression. Moreover, they ingested lower doses of CY and preferred less CY-laced sucrose solution than age-matched controls. The results obtained could not confirm zoopharmacognosy in diseased MRL/lpr mice, likely due to impaired responsiveness to palatable stimulation, or attenuated survival mechanisms after prolonged inbreeding in captivity. However, by revealing the effectiveness of unrestricted drinking of drug-laced sucrose solution on behavior and immunity, the current study supports broader use of such an administration route in behavioural studies sensitive to external stressors.
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