Fetal bovine serum


The use of fetal bovine serum: ethical or scientific problem? 2002, Jochems, Altern Lab Anim

One of the MMR components (and some other vaccines) is fetal bovine serum. Cells, in which the virus is grown, need to multiply. To do so, they need a nutrient medium with hormones, growth factors, proteins, amino acids, vitamins, etc. Fetal bovine serum is usually used as this medium. Since the serum should preferably be sterile, the blood of calves' fetuses is used instead of the cow’s blood.
A pregnant cow is killed and the uterus is removed. Then the fetus is removed from the uterus, the umbilical cord is cut and disinfected. After that the heart is punctured with a needle and the blood is pumped out. Sometimes a pump is used for this, sometimes a massage. After the blood coagulates, platelets and coagulation factors are separated from it by centrifugation. Fetal bovine serum is what remains as a result.
Apart form the necessary components, the serum can also contain viruses, bacteria, yeast, fungi, mycoplasmas, endotoxins, and possibly prions. Many components of bovine serum have not yet been identified, and the function of many of the identified ones is unknown.
150 ml of serum can be collected from a three months old fetus, 350 ml from a six month old, and 550 ml from a nine month old fetus. (Cows’ pregnancy lasts 9 months). The global market for bovine serum is 500,000 liters every year, which requires approximately 2 million pregnant cows. (Currently, the serum market is already 700,000 liters).

The authors then go on to analyze the literature on the subject of whether the fetus suffers when its heart is punctured and its blood is pumped out.
Since the fetus experiences anoxia (an acute oxygen deficiency) when separated from the placenta, perhaps it could prevent the pain signals from reaching the brain, and the fetus might not suffer. However, it turns out that, unlike adult rabbits, who die of anoxia within 1.5 minutes, prematurely born rabbits can live without oxygen for 44 minutes. This happens because fetuses and newborns compensate for oxygen deficiency with anaerobic metabolism. Moreover, fetal brain consumes much less oxygen than adult brain. Other species of animals show similar results, but calves have never been examined specifically.
Science has only recently raised the issue of whether a mammal’s fetus or newborn feels pain. Just ten years ago, infants were believed to be less sensitive to pain than adults, which is why surgeries on premature and full-term infants were performed without anesthesia. Today, it is believed that human fetus can feel pain as early as 24th week of pregnancy, and can suffer starting from week 11 after conception. Moreover, fetuses and newborns are more sensitive to pain than adults, since they have not yet developed a mechanism for suppressing physiological pain. Therefore, a fetus can even feel pain form a simple touch.
The authors conclude that normal brain activity is observed in fetus when its heart is being punctured, it feels pain and suffers when the blood is pumped out, and maybe even after the procedure, until it dies.
The authors then discuss whether it is possible to anesthetize the fetus, so that it would not feel pain. Some believe that anoxia itself plays a role of anesthetic, but that is not the case. In addition, newborn mammals have poor capacity to metabolize drugs. Also, it is undesirable to have these drugs in the serum. Electrical stunning cannot be used either, since it causes cardiac arrest. The authors believe that, perhaps, a bolt, appropriately stunned into the brain, would induce brain death.
Some manufacturers claim that they kill the fetus before harvesting blood, but that is not true, since the blood clots right after death, and to collect it the fetus must be alive.
The authors conclude that the procedure of harvesting the fetal bovine serum is inhumane.


Benefits and expenses due to animal serum used in cell culture production. 1999, Wessman, Dev Biol Stand

20-50% of fetal bovine serum is infected with bovine viral diarrhea virus, as well as other viruses.
We are talking only about the viruses known to science, which constitute only a small fraction of all the existing viruses.


Fetal Bovine Serum RNA Interferes with the Cell Culture derived Extracellular RNA. 2016, Wei, Sci Rep

Fetal bovine serum contains extracellular RNA, which is impossible to separate from the serum. This RNA interacts with human cells RNA, in which vaccine viruses are grown.


Evidence of pestivirus RNA in human virus vaccines. 1994, Harasawa, J Clin Microbiol

The authors examined five types of live vaccines and detected bovine viral diarrhea virus RNA in MMR vaccines of two different manufacturers, as well as in two monovalent vaccines against mumps and rubella, which most likely got there from fetal bovine serum.
In infants, this virus might cause gastroenteritis, and in pregnant women, it might lead to the birth of children with microcephaly.


Viral contamination of bovine foetal serum and cell cultures. 1977, Nuttall, Nature

The fact that fetal bovine serum is infected with the bovine viral diarrhea virus was known already in 1977. It is known that this virus passes through placenta and can infect the calf fetus in the uterus. 60% of serum samples in Australia were contaminated with the virus. 8% of the vaccines against Bovine Rhinotracheitis were also contaminated.
The virus was also found in bovine kidney cells, which are used in production of measles vaccine.