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The progression of scrapie is known to be influenced by the amino acid polymorphisms of the host prion protein (PrP) gene. There is no breeding programme for TSE resistance in sheep in Finland, but a scrapie control programme has been in place since 1995.
In this study we have analysed PrP genotypes of total of 928 purebred and crossbred sheep together with the data of scrapie survey carried out in Finland during 2002–2008 in order to gain knowledge of the genotype distribution and scrapie prevalence in Finnish sheep.
The ARQ/ARQ genotype was the most common genotype in all breeds studied. ARR allele frequency was less than 12% in purebred Finnish sheep and in most genotypes heterozygous for ARR, the second allele was ARQ. The VRQ allele was not detected in the Grey race sheep of Kainuu or in the Aland sheep, and it was present in less than 6% of the Finnish Landrace sheep. Leucine was the most prominent amino acid found in codon 141. In addition, one novel prion dimorphisms of Q220L was detected. During the scrapie survey of over 15 000 sheep in 2002–2008, no classical scrapie cases and only five atypical scrapie cases were detected.
The results indicate that the Finnish sheep populations have genetically little resistance to classical scrapie, but no classical scrapie was detected during an extensive survey in 2002–2008. However, five atypical scrapie cases emerged; thus, the disease is present in the Finnish sheep population at a low level.