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1.  The signature of scrapie: differences in the PrP genotype profile of scrapie-affected and scrapie-free UK sheep flocks. 
The amino-acid sequence of the PrP protein plays an important role in determining whether sheep are susceptible to scrapie. Although the genetics of scrapie susceptibility are now well understood, there have been few studies of the PrP gene at the population level, especially in commercially farmed sheep. Here we describe the PrP genetic profiles of the breeding stock of four UK sheep flocks, comprising nearly 650 animals in total. Two flocks had been scrapie affected for about eight years and two were scrapie free. Scrapie-resistant PrP genotypes predominated in all flocks but highly susceptible genotypes were present in each case. The distribution of PrP genotypes was similar in the scrapie-affected and scrapie-free flocks. The former, however, showed a slight but significant skew towards more susceptible genotypes despite their previous losses of susceptible sheep. Surprisingly, this skew was apparent in younger, but not older, sheep. We suggest that these patterns may occur if sheep flocks destined to become scrapie affected are predisposed by a genetic profile skewed towards susceptibility. The age structure of the scrapie-affected flocks suggests that the number of losses attributable directly or indirectly to scrapie considerably exceeds that recognized by the farmers, and also that significant losses may occur even in sheep of a moderately susceptible genotype. Similar patterns were not detected in the scrapie-free flocks, indicating that these losses are associated with scrapie infection as well as genotype.
PMCID: PMC1690789  PMID: 11416905
2.  An Economic Evaluation of Preclinical Testing Strategies Compared to the Compulsory Scrapie Flock Scheme in the Control of Classical Scrapie 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e32884.
Cost-benefit is rarely combined with nonlinear dynamic models when evaluating control options for infectious diseases. The current strategy for scrapie in Great Britain requires that all genetically susceptible livestock in affected flocks be culled (Compulsory Scrapie Flock Scheme or CSFS). However, this results in the removal of many healthy sheep, and a recently developed pre-clinical test for scrapie now offers a strategy based on disease detection. We explore the flock level cost-effectiveness of scrapie control using a deterministic transmission model and industry estimates of costs associated with genotype testing, pre-clinical tests and the value of a sheep culled. Benefit was measured in terms of the reduction in the number of infected sheep sold on, compared to a baseline strategy of doing nothing, using Incremental Cost Effectiveness analysis to compare across strategies. As market data was not available for pre-clinical testing, a threshold analysis was used to set a unit-cost giving equal costs for CSFS and multiple pre-clinical testing (MT, one test each year for three consecutive years). Assuming a 40% within-flock proportion of susceptible genotypes and a test sensitivity of 90%, a single test (ST) was cheaper but less effective than either the CSFS or MT strategies (30 infected-sales-averted over the lifetime of the average epidemic). The MT strategy was slightly less effective than the CSFS and would be a dominated strategy unless preclinical testing was cheaper than the threshold price of £6.28, but may be appropriate for flocks with particularly valuable livestock. Though the ST is not currently recommended, the proportion of susceptible genotypes in the national flock is likely to continue to decrease; this may eventually make it a cost-effective alternative to the MT or CSFS.
PMCID: PMC3296747  PMID: 22412943
3.  Atypical scrapie in sheep from a UK research flock which is free from classical scrapie 
In the wake of the epidemic of bovine spongiform encephalopathy the British government established a flock of sheep from which scrapie-free animals are supplied to laboratories for research. Three breeds of sheep carrying a variety of different genotypes associated with scrapie susceptibility/resistance were imported in 1998 and 2001 from New Zealand, a country regarded as free from scrapie. They are kept in a purpose-built Sheep Unit under strict disease security and are monitored clinically and post mortem for evidence of scrapie. It is emphasised that atypical scrapie, as distinct from classical scrapie, has been recognised only relatively recently and differs from classical scrapie in its clinical, neuropathological and biochemical features. Most cases are detected in apparently healthy sheep by post mortem examination.
The occurrence of atypical scrapie in three sheep in (or derived from) the Sheep Unit is reported. Significant features of the affected sheep included their relatively high ages (6 y 1 mo, 7 y 9 mo, 9 y 7 mo respectively), their breed (all Cheviots) and their similar PRNP genotypes (AFRQ/AFRQ, AFRQ/ALRQ, and AFRQ/AFRQ, respectively). Two of the three sheep showed no clinical signs prior to death but all were confirmed as having atypical scrapie by immunohistochemistry and Western immunoblotting. Results of epidemiological investigations are presented and possible aetiologies of the cases are discussed.
By process of exclusion, a likely explanation for the three cases of atypical scrapie is that they arose spontaneously and were not infected from an exterior source. If correct, this raises challenging issues for countries which are currently regarded as free from scrapie. It would mean that atypical scrapie is liable to occur in flocks worldwide, especially in older sheep of susceptible genotypes. To state confidently that both the classical and atypical forms of scrapie are absent from a population it is necessary for active surveillance to have taken place.
PMCID: PMC2649067  PMID: 19208228
4.  Active Surveillance for Scrapie by Third Eyelid Biopsy and Genetic Susceptibility Testing of Flocks of Sheep in Wyoming 
Control of scrapie, an ovine transmissible spongiform encephalopathy or prion disorder, has been hampered by the lack of conventional antemortem diagnostic tests. Currently, scrapie is diagnosed by postmortem examination of the brain and lymphoid tissues for PrPSc, the protein marker for this group of disorders. For live, asymptomatic sheep, diagnosis using tonsil or third-eyelid lymphoid tissue biopsy and PrPSc assay has been described. To evaluate the feasibility and efficacy of third-eyelid testing for identification of infected flocks and individual infected sheep, 690 sheep from 22 flocks were sampled by third-eyelid lymphoid tissue biopsy and immunohistochemistry. Sheep were further evaluated for relative genetic susceptibility and potential contact exposure to scrapie. Third-eyelid testing yielded suitable samples for 80% of the sheep tested, with a mean of 18.1 lymphoid follicles (germinal centers) per histologic section. Three hundred eleven of the sheep were sampled through passive surveillance programs, in which only sheep with potential contact with an infected sheep at a lambing event were tested, regardless of their scrapie susceptibility genotype. In addition, 141 genetically susceptible sheep with no record of contact with an infected animal at a lambing event were sampled through a targeted active surveillance program. Ten PrPSc-positive sheep were identified through the passive surveillance program, and an additional three PrPSc-positive sheep, including two from flocks with no history of scrapie, were identified through the active surveillance program. All PrPSc-positive sheep had the highly susceptible PrP genotype. Third-eyelid testing is a useful adjunct to flock monitoring programs, slaughter surveillance, and mandatory disease reporting in a comprehensive scrapie eradication and research program.
PMCID: PMC120069  PMID: 12204945
5.  Implications of Conflicting Associations of the Prion Protein (PrP) Gene with Scrapie Susceptibility and Fitness on the Persistence of Scrapie 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(11):e7970.
Existing mathematical models for scrapie dynamics in sheep populations assume that the PrP gene is only associated with scrapie susceptibility and with no other fitness related traits. This assumption contrasts recent findings of PrP gene associations with post-natal lamb survival in scrapie free Scottish Blackface populations. Lambs with scrapie resistant genotypes were found to have significantly lower survival rates than those with susceptible genotypes. The present study aimed to investigate how these conflicting PrP gene associations may affect the dynamic patterns of PrP haplotype frequencies and disease prevalence.
Methodology/Principal Findings
A deterministic mathematical model was developed to explore how the associations between PrP genotype and both scrapie susceptibility and postnatal lamb mortality affect the prevalence of scrapie and the associated change in PrP gene frequencies in a closed flock of sheep. The model incorporates empirical evidence on epidemiological and biological characteristics of scrapie and on mortality rates induced by causes other than scrapie. The model results indicate that unfavorable associations of the scrapie resistant PrP haplotypes with post-natal lamb mortality, if sufficiently strong, can increase scrapie prevalence during an epidemic, and result in scrapie persisting in the population. The range of model parameters, for which such effects were observed, is realistic but relatively narrow.
The results of the present model suggest that for most parameter combinations an unfavourable association between PrP genotype and post-natal lamb mortality does not greatly alter the dynamics of scrapie and, hence, would not have an adverse impact on a breeding programme. There were, however, a range of scenarios, narrow, but realistic, in which such an unfavourable association resulted in an increased prevalence and in the persistence of infection. Consequently, associations between PrP genotypes and fitness traits should be taken into account when designing future models and breeding programmes.
PMCID: PMC2776355  PMID: 19956715
6.  Evidence in Sheep for Pre-Natal Transmission of Scrapie to Lambs from Infected Mothers 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79433.
Natural scrapie transmission from infected ewes to their lambs is thought to occur by the oral route around the time of birth. However the hypothesis that scrapie transmission can also occur before birth (in utero) is not currently favoured by most researchers. As scrapie is an opportunistic infection with multiple infection routes likely to be functional in sheep, definitive evidence for or against transmission from ewe to her developing fetus has been difficult to achieve. In addition the very early literature on maternal transmission of scrapie in sheep was compromised by lack of knowledge of the role of the PRNP (prion protein) gene in control of susceptibility to scrapie. In this study we experimentally infected pregnant ewes of known PRNP genotype with a distinctive scrapie strain (SSBP/1) and looked for evidence of transmission of SSBP/1 to the offspring. The sheep were from the NPU Cheviot flock, which has endemic natural scrapie from which SSBP/1 can be differentiated on the basis of histology, genetics of disease incidence and strain typing bioassay in mice. We used embryo transfer techniques to allow sheep fetuses of scrapie-susceptible PRNP genotypes to develop in a range of scrapie-resistant and susceptible recipient mothers and challenged the recipients with SSBP/1. Scrapie clinical disease, caused by both natural scrapie and SSBP/1, occurred in the progeny but evidence (including mouse strain typing) of SSBP/1 infection was found only in lambs born to fully susceptible recipient mothers. Progeny were not protected from transmission of natural scrapie or SSBP/1 by washing of embryos to International Embryo Transfer Society standards or by caesarean derivation and complete separation from their birth mothers. Our results strongly suggest that pre-natal (in utero) transmission of scrapie may have occurred in these sheep.
PMCID: PMC3832582  PMID: 24260219
7.  Protective effect of the AT137RQ and ARQK176 PrP alleles against classical scrapie in Sarda breed sheep 
Veterinary Research  2009;40(3):19.
The susceptibility of sheep to scrapie is under the control of the host’s prion protein (PrP) gene and is also influenced by the strain of the agent. PrP polymorphisms at codons 136 (A/V), 154 (R/H) and 171 (Q/R/H) are the main determinants of susceptibility/resistance of sheep to classical scrapie. They are combined in four main variants of the wild-type ARQ allele: VRQ, AHQ, ARH and ARR. Breeding programmes have been undertaken on this basis in the European Union and the USA to increase the frequency of the resistant ARR allele in sheep populations. Herein, we report the results of a multi-flock study showing the protective effect of polymorphisms other than those at codons 136, 154 and 171 in Sarda breed sheep. All ARQ/ARQ affected sheep (n = 154) and 378 negative ARQ/ARQ controls from four scrapie outbreaks were submitted to sequencing of the PrP gene. The distribution of variations other than those at the standard three codons, between scrapie cases and negative controls, was statistically different in all flocks. In particular, the AT137RQ and ARQK176 alleles showed a clear protective effect. This is the first study demonstrating a protective influence of alleles other than ARR under field conditions. If further investigations in other sheep breeds and with other scrapie sources confirm these findings, the availability of various protective alleles in breeding programmes of sheep for scrapie resistance could be useful in breeds with a low frequency of the ARR allele and would allow maintaining a wider variability of the PrP gene.
PMCID: PMC2695041  PMID: 19171116
transmissible spongiform encephalopathy; PrP; genetics; scrapie; sheep
8.  Epidemiological Characteristics of Classical Scrapie Outbreaks in 30 Sheep Flocks in the United Kingdom 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(12):e3994.
Most previous analyses of scrapie outbreaks have focused on flocks run by research institutes, which may not reflect the field situation. Within this study, we attempt to rectify this deficit by describing the epidemiological characteristics of 30 sheep flocks naturally-infected with classical scrapie, and by exploring possible underlying causes of variation in the characteristics between flocks, including flock-level prion protein (PrP) genotype profile. In total, the study involved PrP genotype data for nearly 8600 animals and over 400 scrapie cases.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We found that most scrapie cases were restricted to just two PrP genotypes (ARQ/VRQ and VRQ/VRQ), though two flocks had markedly different affected genotypes, despite having similar underlying genotype profiles to other flocks of the same breed; we identified differences amongst flocks in the age of cases of certain PrP genotypes; we found that the age-at-onset of clinical signs depended on peak incidence and flock type; we found evidence that purchasing infected animals is an important means of introducing scrapie to a flock; we found some evidence that flock-level PrP genotype profile and flock size account for variation in outbreak characteristics; identified seasonality in cases associated with lambing time in certain flocks; and we identified one case that was homozygous for phenylalanine at codon 141, a polymorphism associated with a very high risk of atypical scrapie, and 28 cases that were heterozygous at this codon.
This paper presents the largest study to date on commercially-run sheep flocks naturally-infected with classical scrapie, involving 30 study flocks, more than 400 scrapie cases and over 8500 PrP genotypes. We show that some of the observed variation in epidemiological characteristics between farms is related to differences in their PrP genotype profile; although much remains unexplained and may instead be attributed to the stochastic nature of scrapie dynamics.
PMCID: PMC2601035  PMID: 19098982
9.  Lambs with Scrapie Susceptible Genotypes Have Higher Postnatal Survival 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(11):e1236.
Prion protein (PrP) alleles associated with scrapie susceptibility persist in many sheep populations even with high frequencies despite centuries of selection against them. This suggests that scrapie susceptibility alleles have a pleiotropic effect or are associated with fitness or other traits that have been subject to selection.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We genotyped all lambs in two scrapie-free Scottish Blackface sheep flocks for polymorphisms at codons 136, 154 and 171 of the PrP gene. We tested potential associations of the PrP genotype with lamb viability at birth and postnatal survival using a complementary log-log link function and a Weibull proportional hazard model, respectively. Here we show there is an association between PrP genotype, as defined by polymorphisms at codons 154 ad 171, and postnatal lamb survival in the absence of scrapie. Sheep carrying the wild-type ARQ allele have higher postnatal survival rates than sheep carrying the more scrapie-resistant alleles (ARR or AHQ).
The PrP genotypes associated with higher susceptibility to scrapie are associated with improved postnatal survival in the absence of the disease. This association helps to explain the existence, and in many instances the high frequency, of the ARQ allele in sheep populations.
PMCID: PMC2077931  PMID: 18043743
10.  Norwegian farmers' vigilance in reporting sheep showing scrapie-associated signs 
Scrapie is a chronic neurodegenerative disease affecting small ruminants and belongs to the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Scrapie is considered a serious animal disease and it has been notifiable in Norway since 1965. The clinical signs of scrapie might be vague and the farmers, if familiar with the signs of scrapie, are often in the best position for detecting scrapie suspects. In 2002, an anonymous questionnaire survey was conducted in order to assess Norwegian sheep farmers' vigilance of scrapie.
Although the potential detection of a scrapie-positive animal would lead to the destruction of the sheep flock concerned, almost all the farmers (97 %) expressed their willingness to report scrapie suspects. This was most certainly dependent on the Government taking the economic responsibility for the control programme as nearly all the farmers responded that this was an important condition. Listeriosis is relatively common disease in Norwegian sheep and a differential diagnosis for scrapie. In a multinomial logistic regression the reporting behaviour for non-recovering listeriosis cases, used as a measurement of willingness to report scrapie, was examined. The reporting of non-recovering listeriosis cases increased as the knowledge of scrapie-associated signs increased, and the reporting behaviour was dependent on both economic and non-economic values.
The results indicate that in 2002 almost all sheep farmers showed willingness to report any scrapie suspects. Nevertheless there is an underreporting of scrapie suspects and the farmers' awareness and hence their vigilance of scrapie could be improved. Furthermore, the results suggest that to ensure the farmers' compliance to control programmes for serious infectious diseases, the farmers' concerns of non-economic as well as economic values should be considered.
PMCID: PMC2246117  PMID: 18076757
11.  Evidence of scrapie transmission via milk 
The risk of scrapie infection increases with increased duration and proximity of contact between sheep at lambing. Scrapie infectivity has not been detected in milk but cellular prion protein, the precursor of disease-associated prion protein PrPd, has been found in milk from ruminants. To determine whether milk is able to transmit scrapie, 18 lambs with a prion protein genotype associated with high susceptibility to scrapie (VRQ/VRQ) were fed milk from twelve scrapie-affected ewes of the same genotype, and 15 VRQ/VRQ sheep reared on scrapie-free dams served as controls.
Three lambs fed milk from scrapie-affected ewes were culled due to intercurrent diseases at 43, 44 and 105 days of age respectively, and PrPd was detected in the distal ileum of the first two lambs, whilst PrPd was not found in lymphoreticular tissues in the third lamb. A control lamb, housed in a separate pen and culled at 38 days of age, was also negative for PrPd in a range of tissues. Samples of recto-anal mucosa associated lymphoid tissue collected from the remaining 15 live lambs at seven months of age (between five to seven months after mixing) were positive for PrPd in the scrapie milk recipients, whereas PrPd was not detected in the remaining 14 controls at that time. A subsequent sample collected from control lambs revealed PrPd accumulation in two of five lambs eight months after mixing with scrapie milk recipients suggestive of an early stage of infection via lateral transmission. By contrast, the control sheep housed in the same building but not mixed with the scrapie milk recipients were still negative for PrPd.
The presence of PrPd in distal ileum and rectal mucosa indicates transmission of scrapie from ewe to lamb via milk (or colostrum) although it is not yet clear if such cases would go on to develop clinical disease. The high level of infection in scrapie-milk recipients revealed by rectal mucosal testing at approximately seven months of age may be enhanced or supplemented by intra-recipient infection as these lambs were mixed together after feeding with milk from scrapie-affected ewes and we also observed lateral transmission from these animals to lambs weaned from scrapie-free ewes.
PMCID: PMC2374774  PMID: 18397513
12.  Scrapie Agent (Strain 263K) Can Transmit Disease via the Oral Route after Persistence in Soil over Years 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(5):e435.
The persistence of infectious biomolecules in soil constitutes a substantial challenge. This holds particularly true with respect to prions, the causative agents of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) such as scrapie, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or chronic wasting disease (CWD). Various studies have indicated that prions are able to persist in soil for years without losing their pathogenic activity. Dissemination of prions into the environment can occur from several sources, e.g., infectious placenta or amniotic fluid of sheep. Furthermore, environmental contamination by saliva, excrements or non-sterilized agricultural organic fertilizer is conceivable. Natural transmission of scrapie in the field seems to occur via the alimentary tract in the majority of cases, and scrapie-free sheep flocks can become infected on pastures where outbreaks of scrapie had been observed before. These findings point to a sustained contagion in the environment, and notably the soil. By using outdoor lysimeters, we simulated a contamination of standard soil with hamster-adapted 263K scrapie prions, and analyzed the presence and biological activity of the soil-associated PrPSc and infectivity by Western blotting and hamster bioassay, respectively. Our results showed that 263K scrapie agent can persist in soil at least over 29 months. Strikingly, not only the contaminated soil itself retained high levels of infectivity, as evidenced by oral administration to Syrian hamsters, but also feeding of aqueous soil extracts was able to induce disease in the reporter animals. We could also demonstrate that PrPSc in soil, extracted after 21 months, provides a catalytically active seed in the protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA) reaction. PMCA opens therefore a perspective for considerably improving the detectability of prions in soil samples from the field.
PMCID: PMC1855989  PMID: 17502917
13.  Proteinase K-Resistant Material in ARR/VRQ Sheep Brain Affected with Classical Scrapie Is Composed Mainly of VRQ Prion Protein▿† 
Journal of Virology  2011;85(23):12537-12546.
Classical scrapie is a prion disease in sheep and goats. In sheep, susceptibility to disease is genetically influenced by single amino acid substitutions. Genetic breeding programs aimed at enrichment of arginine-171 (171R) prion protein (PrP), the so-called ARR allele, in the sheep population have been demonstrated to be effective in reducing the occurrence of classical scrapie in the field. Understanding the molecular basis for this reduced prevalence would serve the assessment of ARR adaptation. The prion formation mechanism and conversion of PrP from the normal form (PrPC) to the scrapie-associated form (PrPSc) could play a key role in this process. Therefore, we investigated whether the ARR allele substantially contributes to scrapie prion formation in naturally infected heterozygous 171Q/R animals. Two methods were applied to brain tissue of 171Q/R heterozygous sheep with natural scrapie to determine the relative amount of the 171R PrP fraction in PrPres, the proteinase K-resistant PrPSc core. An antibody test differentiating between 171Q and 171R PrP fragments showed that PrPres was mostly composed of the 171Q allelotype. Furthermore, using a novel tool for prion research, endoproteinase Lys-C-digested PrPres yielded substantial amounts of a nonglycosylated and a monoglycosylated PrP fragment comprising codons 114 to 188. Following two-dimensional gel electrophoresis, only marginal amounts (<9%) of 171R PrPres were detected. Enhanced 171Rres proteolytic susceptibility could be excluded. Thus, these data support a nearly zero contribution of 171R PrP in PrPres of 171R/Q field scrapie-infected animals. This is suggestive of a poor adaptation of classical scrapie to this resistance allele under these natural conditions.
PMCID: PMC3209378  PMID: 21917981
14.  The Limits of Test-Based Scrapie Eradication Programs in Goats 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54911.
Small ruminant post-mortem testing programs were initially designed for monitoring the prevalence of prion disease. They are now considered as a potential alternative to genetic selection for eradicating/controlling classical scrapie at population level. If such policy should be implemented, its success would be crucially dependent on the efficiency of the surveillance system used to identify infected flocks. In this study, we first determined the performance of post-mortem classical scrapie detection in eight naturally affected goat herds (total n = 1961 animals) according to the age at culling. These results provided us with necessary parameters to estimate, through a Monte Carlo simulation model, the performance of scrapie detection in a commercial population. According to this model, whatever the number of tests performed, post mortem surveillance will have limited success in identifying infected herds. These data support the contention that scrapie eradication programs relying solely on post mortem testing in goats will probably fail. Considering the epidemiological and pathological similarities of scrapie in sheep and goats, the efficiency of scrapie surveillance in both species is likely to be similar.
PMCID: PMC3553010  PMID: 23372789
15.  Prevalence of sheep infected with classical scrapie in Great Britain: integrating multiple sources of surveillance data for 2002 
Estimates for the prevalence of sheep infected with classical scrapie are essential for assessing the efficacy of control strategies that have been implemented in Great Britain (GB). Here a back-calculation approach was used to estimate the prevalence in the GB national flock by integrating data on reported cases and the results of abattoir and fallen stock surveys for 2002. Prevalence estimates ranged from 0.33 to 2.06%, depending on the estimates used for the frequencies of prion protein (PrP) genotypes in the national flock and the stage of incubation at which the diagnostic tests used are able to detect infected animals. The risk of infection was found to be higher than that of clinical disease, especially in those PrP genotypes that have a later age at onset of clinical disease. Moreover, results suggest that a high proportion (more than 55%) of infected animals surviving to disease onset die on farm before clinical signs become apparent, which helps account for the high observed prevalence in the fallen stock compared with the abattoir survey. The analyses indicated that attention needs to be given to identifying the stage of incubation at which diagnostic tests are able to detect infected animals and obtaining better demographic data for the GB national flock.
PMCID: PMC2607439  PMID: 18348959
transmissible spongiform encephalopathy; scrapie; epidemiology; prion protein genotype; sheep; back calculation
16.  In vitro amplification of ovine prions from scrapie-infected sheep from Great Britain reveals distinct patterns of propagation 
Protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA) is a method that facilitates the detection of prions from many sources of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). Sheep scrapie represents a unique diversity of prion disease agents in a range of susceptible PRNP genotypes. In this study PMCA was assessed on a range of Great Britain (GB) sheep scrapie isolates to determine the applicability to veterinary diagnosis of ovine TSE.
PrPSc amplification by protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA) was assessed as a diagnostic tool for field cases of scrapie. The technique was initially applied to thirty-seven isolates of scrapie from diverse geographical locations around GB, and involved sheep of various breeds and PRNP genotypes. All samples were amplified in either VRQ and/or ARQ PrPC substrate. For PrPSc from sheep with at least one VRQ allele, all samples amplified efficiently in VRQ PrPC but only PrPSc from ARH/VRQ sheep amplified in both substrates. PrPSc from ARQ/ARQ sheep displayed two amplification patterns, one that amplified in both substrates and one that only amplified in ARQ PrPC. These amplification patterns were consistent for a further 14/15 flock/farm mates of these sheep. Furthermore experimental scrapie strains SSBP1, Dawson, CH1641 and MRI were analysed. SSBP1 and Dawson (from VRQ/VRQ sheep) amplified in VRQ but not ARQ substrate. MRI scrapie (from ARQ/ARQ sheep) nor CH1641 did not amplify in ARQ or VRQ substrate; these strains required an enhanced PMCA method incorporating polyadenylic acid (poly(A)) to achieve amplification.
PrPsc from 52 classical scrapie GB field isolates amplified in VRQ or ARQ or both substrates and supports the use of PMCA as a rapid assay for the detection of a wide range of ovine classical scrapie infections involving multiple PRNP genotypes and scrapie strains.
PMCID: PMC3559253  PMID: 23153009
Prions; Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy; Scrapie; Sheep; PMCA
17.  Diversity in Neuroanatomical Distribution of Abnormal Prion Protein in Atypical Scrapie 
PLoS Pathogens  2007;3(6):e82.
Scrapie is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) in sheep and goats. In recent years, atypical scrapie cases were identified that differed from classical scrapie in the molecular characteristics of the disease-associated pathological prion protein (PrPsc). In this study, we analyze the molecular and neuropathological phenotype of nine Swiss TSE cases in sheep and goats. One sheep was identified as classical scrapie, whereas six sheep, as well as two goats, were classified as atypical scrapie. The latter revealed a uniform electrophoretic mobility pattern of the proteinase K–resistant core fragment of PrPsc distinct from classical scrapie regardless of the genotype, the species, and the neuroanatomical structure. Remarkably different types of neuroanatomical PrPsc distribution were observed in atypical scrapie cases by both western immunoblotting and immunohistochemistry. Our findings indicate that the biodiversity in atypical scrapie is larger than expected and thus impacts on current sampling and testing strategies in small ruminant TSE surveillance.
Author Summary
In the view of concerns that bovine spongiform encephalopathy has entered the small ruminant population, comprehensive active surveillance programs for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) in sheep and goats were implemented worldwide. In these, previously unrecognized atypical scrapie cases were identified that to date represent the majority of detected small ruminant TSE cases in some countries. The pathogenesis and epidemiology of atypical scrapie, as well as its relevance to both animal health and food safety, is still poorly understood. In the present study, we performed a systematic neuropathological analysis of recently diagnosed atypical scrapie cases in Switzerland. Our results show that the neuropathological presentation in atypical scrapie–affected small ruminants varies remarkably, and the results indicate a biodiversity of TSEs in sheep and goats larger than expected, with some similarities to known human TSEs. These findings will form the basis for future research on TSE phenotypes and help to design experimental studies necessary to generate data for risk assessments and the implementation of appropriate disease-control strategies.
PMCID: PMC1891327  PMID: 17559305
18.  Within-holding prevalence of sheep classical scrapie in Great Britain 
Data from the Compulsory Scrapie Flocks Scheme (CSFS), part of the compulsory eradication measures for the control of scrapie in the EU, have been used to estimate the within-holding prevalence of classical scrapie in Great Britain (GB). Specifically data from one of the testing routes within the CSFS have been used; the initial cull (IC), whereby two options can be applied: the whole flock cull option by which the entire flock is depopulated, and the genotyping and cull of certain genotypes.
Between April 2005 and September 2007, 25,316 suitable samples, submitted from 411 flocks in 213 scrapie-affected holdings in Great Britain, were tested for scrapie. The predicted within-holding prevalence for the initial cull was 0.65% (95% CI: 0.55–0.75). For the whole cull option was 0.47% (95% CI: 0.32–0.68) and for the genotype and cull or mixed option (both options applied in different flocks of the same holding), the predicted within-holding prevalence was 0.7% (95% CI: 0.6–0.83). There were no significant differences in the within-flock prevalence between countries (England, Scotland and Wales) or between CSFS holdings by the surveillance stream that detected the index case. The number of CSFS flocks on a holding did not affect the overall within-holding prevalence of classical scrapie.
These estimates are important in the discussion of the epidemiological implications of the current EU testing programme of scrapie-affected flocks and to inform epidemiological and mathematical models. Furthermore, these estimates may provide baseline data to assist the design of future surveillance activities and control policies with the aim to increase their efficiency.
PMCID: PMC2647917  PMID: 19133119
19.  Prevalence of anthelmintic resistance in gastrointestinal nematodes of sheep and goats in Norway 
Parasitology Research  2012;111(1):185-193.
In the period of 2008–2009, the efficacies of the benzimidazole (BZ) albendazole and the macrocyclic lactone (ML) ivermectin against gastrointestinal nematodes (GIN) of small ruminants were evaluated by means of the fecal egg count reduction (FECR) test and by post-treatment identification of surviving third stage (L3) larvae after coproculture. Sheep (n = 28) and goat (n = 28) flocks from three areas of Norway were randomly selected to assess the prevalence of anthelmintic resistance (AR), whereas only lambs from non-randomly selected sheep flocks (n = 32) with a farm management that could select for AR were investigated the second year. Only flocks with a mean excretion of nematode eggs per gram feces (EPG) ≥150 at time of treatment were included in the survey. In total, 48 (80%) and 13 (46.4%) of the selected sheep and goat flocks, respectively, fulfilled the inclusion criteria. The proportions of flocks classified as resistant (i.e., FECR <95% and with a lower 95% confidence interval of <90%) for the BZ drug albendazole were 10.5% and 31.0% in the randomly and non-randomly selected sheep flocks, respectively. When restricting the area to Rogaland County, eight flocks out of ten (80%) non-randomly selected sheep flocks showed BZ resistance. The efficacy of ML was 100% in all surveyed sheep and goat flocks. In post-treatment coprocultures from the non-randomly selected flocks, the main nematode genera were Teladorsagia/Trichostrongylus in five flocks, Haemonchus in two flocks, and a mixture of these genera in the remaining two flocks. In the goat flocks, the pre-treatment infection levels of GIN were low compared to what was found in the sheep flocks. Still, in one flock, AR against BZ in Teladorsagia/Trichostrongylus was found. New strategies and recommendations to face the emerging AR situation in Rogaland County in order to limit the spread of resistant nematodes within and into other areas are urgently needed.
PMCID: PMC3378835  PMID: 22290446
20.  Population dynamics of scrapie in a sheep flock. 
A detailed analysis of an outbreak of natural scrapie in a flock of Cheviot sheep is described. A total of 137 cases was reported over 13 years among 1307 sheep born into the flock. The epidemiology of scrapie can only be understood with reference to sheep demography, the population genetics of susceptibility to scrapie, pathogenesis during a long incubation period, and the rate of transmission (by both vertical and horizontal routes), all of which interact in complex ways. A mathematical model incorporating these features is described, parameter values and model inputs are derived from available information from the flock and from independent sources, and model outputs are compared with the field data. The model is able to reproduce key features of the outbreak, including its long duration and the ages of cases. The analysis supports earlier work suggesting that many infected sheep do not survive to show clinical signs, that most cases arise through horizontal transmission, and that there is strong selection against susceptible genotypes. However, important aspects of scrapie epidemiology remain poorly understood, including the possible role of carrier genotypes and of an environmental reservoir of infectivity, and the mechanisms maintaining alleles giving susceptibility to scrapie in the sheep population.
PMCID: PMC1692552  PMID: 10365400
21.  Evaluation of an indigenous ELISA for diagnosis of Johne’s disease and its comparison with commercial kits 
Indian Journal of Microbiology  2007;47(3):251-258.
Country lacks sensitive and indigenous diagnostic kits for the screening of goats and sheep against Johne’s disease. Therefore an indigenous ELISA kit was developed using protoplasmic antigen from native Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis ‘Bison Type’ strain of goat origin (Kit 1). In the present study, kit 1 and two commercial kits (kit 2 and 3) were evaluated with respect to ‘Gold Standard’ fecal culture in 71 animals (55 goats and 16 sheep). Kit 1 using indigenous antigen (protoplasmic antigen) was sensitive at very low concentration (0.1 μgm / well) as compared to purified commercial protoplasmic antigen (4 μgm / well) used in kit 2, in the Type 1 reactors (strong positive as positive). Screening of 71 animals by fecal culture detected 38.0% animals (goats-40.0%, sheep-31.2%) as positive (clinical shedders of bacilli) from these farm animals. Of the farm animals located at Central Institute for Research on Goats, herds of goat were endemic whereas, sheep flocks were comparatively resistant to Johne’s disease. The 29.5 and 61.9, 15.4 and 57.7 and 4.2 and 14.0% animals (goats and sheep) were in the category of sero-reactors type 1 and 2 of the ELISA kits 1, 2 and 3, respectively. In the type 1 sero-reactors, sensitivity and specificity of kit 1, 2 and 3 was 53.7 and 86.0, 17.8 and 86.0 and 3.5 and 94.7%, respectively. Indigenous ELISA test (kit 1) was significantly superior for the screening of goatherds and sheep flocks against JD as compared to commercial ELISA kits (Kit 2 and 3). In comparison to kit 2 and 3, kit 1 had highest sensitivity, comparable specificity and substantial to nearly perfect proportional agreement (Kappa Scores) with respect to ‘Gold standard’ fecal culture in goats and sheep. Disease being endemic in herds and flocks screened using ELISA kits, Type I sero-rectors had better correlation with fecal culture in comparison to Type II sero-reactors therefore, used for estimation of sero-prevalence. Newly developed Indigenous ELISA kit was simple, inexpensive, sensitive and reliable for screening of goats and sheep population against Johne’s disease. The study reports high prevalence of Johne’s disease in farm goatherds and sheep flocks, using sensitive tests (fecal culture and ELISA kit). Results of Type 1 reaction in kit 1 were optimally correlated with culture and were good for estimating the sero-prevalence. For controlling Johne’s disease in endemic herds initial removal of the animals in strong positive category (Tyep 1 reactors), may help to remove heavy shedders.
PMCID: PMC3450340  PMID: 23100673
Johne’s disease; Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis; Protoplasmic antigen; Diagnosis; Fecal culture; ELISA kit
22.  Flock-level risk factors for scrapie in Great Britain: analysis of a 2002 anonymous postal survey 
In November 2002, an anonymous postal survey of sheep farmers in Great Britain (GB) was conducted to identify factors associated with the flock-level occurrence of scrapie. This survey was undertaken to update an earlier postal survey in 1998, and was the first occasion in which a large-scale postal survey had been repeated.
The results of the 2002 survey indicated that scrapie was more likely to occur in certain geographic regions; in purebred compared to commercial flocks; in larger flocks; in flocks which lambed in group pens compared to those which lambed in individual pens; in flocks which always lambed in the same location compared to those which did not; and in farms which kept certain breeds of sheep. In addition to these factors, the likelihood of the disease occurring in homebred animals was higher in flocks which bred a greater proportion of replacement animals or which bought-in lambs. Finally, within-flock transmission following exposure was more likely to occur in hill flocks compared to other farm types; in flocks which bred a greater proportion of replacement animals; and in farms which kept a certain crossbreed of ewe.
The risk factors identified from the 1998 and 2002 anonymous postal surveys in Great Britain were similar. However, differences between the surveys were identified in the influence of region and of purchasing behaviour on the risk of scrapie. These differences are most likely a consequence of changes in farmer awareness and the impact of the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease epidemic, respectively.
PMCID: PMC1557843  PMID: 16887027
23.  Prions in Milk from Ewes Incubating Natural Scrapie 
PLoS Pathogens  2008;4(12):e1000238.
Since prion infectivity had never been reported in milk, dairy products originating from transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE)-affected ruminant flocks currently enter unrestricted into the animal and human food chain. However, a recently published study brought the first evidence of the presence of prions in mammary secretions from scrapie-affected ewes. Here we report the detection of consistent levels of infectivity in colostrum and milk from sheep incubating natural scrapie, several months prior to clinical onset. Additionally, abnormal PrP was detected, by immunohistochemistry and PET blot, in lacteal ducts and mammary acini. This PrPSc accumulation was detected only in ewes harbouring mammary ectopic lymphoid follicles that developed consequent to Maedi lentivirus infection. However, bioassay revealed that prion infectivity was present in milk and colostrum, not only from ewes with such lympho-proliferative chronic mastitis, but also from those displaying lesion-free mammary glands. In milk and colostrum, infectivity could be recovered in the cellular, cream, and casein-whey fractions. In our samples, using a Tg 338 mouse model, the highest per ml infectious titre measured was found to be equivalent to that contained in 6 µg of a posterior brain stem from a terminally scrapie-affected ewe. These findings indicate that both colostrum and milk from small ruminants incubating TSE could contribute to the animal TSE transmission process, either directly or through the presence of milk-derived material in animal feedstuffs. It also raises some concern with regard to the risk to humans of TSE exposure associated with milk products from ovine and other TSE-susceptible dairy species.
Author Summary
A decade ago, a new variant form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease was identified. The emergence of this prion disease in humans was the consequence of the zoonotic transmission of bovine spongiform encephalopathy through dietary exposure. Since then, the control of human exposure to prions has become a priority, and a policy based on the exclusion of known infectious materials from the food chain has been implemented. Because all investigations carried out failed to reveal evidence of infectivity in milk from affected ruminants, this product has continuously been considered as safe. In this study, we demonstrate the presence of prions in colostrum and milk from sheep incubating natural scrapie and displaying apparently healthy mammary glands. This finding indicates that milk from small ruminants could contribute to the transmission of prion disease between animals. It also raises some concern with regard to the risk to humans associated with milk products from ovine and other dairy species.
PMCID: PMC2587713  PMID: 19079578
24.  A descriptive study of the prevalence of atypical and classical scrapie in sheep in 20 European countries 
The development of active surveillance programmes for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies of small ruminants across Europe has led to the recent identification of a previously undetected form of ovine prion disease, 'atypical' scrapie. Knowledge of the epidemiology of this disease is still limited, as is whether it represents a risk for animal and/or public health.
The detection of atypical scrapie has been related to the use of only some of the EU agreed rapid tests. Information about the rapid tests used is not, as yet, available from public reports on the surveillance of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in small ruminants. We collected detailed results of active surveillance from European countries to estimate and to compare the prevalence of atypical scrapie and classical scrapie in sheep for each country stratified by each surveillance stream; healthy slaughtered and found dead adult sheep.
From the 20 participating countries, it appeared that atypical scrapie was detected in Europe wherever the conditions necessary for its diagnosis were present. In most countries, atypical scrapie and classical scrapie occurred at low prevalence level. The classical scrapie prevalence estimates were more variable than those for atypical scrapie, which appeared remarkably homogeneous across countries, surveillance streams and calendar years of surveillance. Differences were observed in the age and genotype of atypical scrapie and classical scrapie cases that are consistent with previous published findings.
This work suggests that atypical scrapie is not rare compared to classical scrapie. The homogeneity of its prevalence, whatever the country, stream of surveillance or year of detection, contrasts with the epidemiological pattern of classical scrapie. This suggests that the aetiology of atypical scrapie differs from that of classical scrapie.
PMCID: PMC2442063  PMID: 18544152
25.  Antimicrobial use in the Alberta sheep industry 
Information regarding antimicrobial use in sheep is scarce. In 2001, a scrapie surveillance program was initiated in Alberta that also provided a mechanism for collecting other sheep health data including antimicrobial use information between April 2001 and April 2002. A major objective of this study was to describe antimicrobial use in the Alberta sheep industry. This was done by obtaining qualitative antimicrobial use information from all flocks (n = 212) providing cull ewes to the program using a brief, primarily flock-level, questionnaire. The respondents’ flocks represented 13.6% of the total provincial flock in Alberta in 2001. By a substantial amount, the most frequent method of administering antimicrobials was through injection followed by in-feed, oral (liquids, pills, boluses), and in-water routes, respectively. Drug-specific use data were collected for injectable antimicrobials only, with the most commonly used antimicrobial classes being penicillins followed by tetracyclines. Producers rarely treated some or all of their flock with injectable antimicrobials after discovering an individual sick animal. Adult sheep were the most common age group treated with injectable antimicrobials and the most frequent reason for injectable antimicrobial use was mastitis followed by respiratory problems. This study provides some initial insight regarding antimicrobial use in Alberta sheep flocks. However, collection of more drug-specific data (drug type, dose/concentration, duration of treatment) for noninjectable routes of administration should be conducted in future studies. Assessing antimicrobial use in other sectors of the Alberta sheep industry (feedlots) and other provinces across Canada would also be beneficial.
PMCID: PMC2276898  PMID: 18505202

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