During the last decade, active surveillance for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in small ruminants has been intensive in Europe. In many countries this has led to the detection of cases of atypical scrapie which, unlike classical scrapie, might not be contagious. EU legislation requires, that following detection of a scrapie case, control measures including further testing take place in affected flocks, including the culling of genotype susceptible to classical scrapie. This might result in the detection of additional cases. The aim of this study was to investigate the occurrence of additional cases in flocks affected by atypical scrapie using surveillance data collected in Europe in order to ascertain whether atypical scrapie, is contagious.
Questionnaires were used to collect, at national level, the results of active surveillance and testing associated with flock outbreaks in 12 European countries. The mean prevalence of atypical scrapie was 5.5 (5.0-6.0) cases per ten thousand in abattoir surveillance and 8.1 (7.3-9.0) cases per ten thousand in fallen stock. By using meta-analysis, on 11 out of the 12 countries, we found that the probability of detecting additional cases of atypical scrapie in positive flocks was similar to the probability observed in animals slaughtered for human consumption (odds ratio, OR = 1.07, CI95%: 0.70-1.63) or among fallen stock (OR = 0.78, CI95%: 0.51-1.2). In contrast, when comparing the two scrapie types, the probability of detecting additional cases in classical scrapie positive flocks was significantly higher than the probability of detecting additional cases in atypical scrapie positive flocks (OR = 32.4, CI95%: 20.7-50.7).
These results suggest that atypical scrapie is not contagious or has a very low transmissibility under natural conditions compared with classical scrapie. Furthermore this study stressed the importance of standardised data collection to make good use of the analyses undertaken by European countries in their efforts to control atypical and classical scrapie.
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.
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.
Following the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis, the European Union has introduced policies for eradicating transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), including scrapie, from large ruminants. However, recent European Union surveillance has identified a novel prion disease, ‘atypical’ scrapie, substantially different from classical scrapie. It is unknown whether atypical scrapie is naturally transmissible or zoonotic, like BSE. Furthermore, cases have occurred in scrapie-resistant genotypes that are targets for selection in legislated selective breeding programmes. Here, the first epidemiological study of British cases of atypical scrapie is described, focusing on the demographics and trading patterns of farms and using databases of recorded livestock movements. Triplet comparisons found that farms with atypical scrapie stock more sheep than those of the general, non-affected population. They also move larger numbers of animals than control farms, but similar numbers to farms reporting classical scrapie. Whilst there is weak evidence of association through sheep trading of farms reporting classical scrapie, atypical scrapie shows no such evidence, being well-distributed across regions of Great Britain and through the sheep-trading network. Thus, although cases are few in number so far, our study suggests that, should natural transmission of atypical scrapie be occurring at all, it is doing so slowly.
Atypical/Nor98 scrapie was first identified in 1998 in Norway. It is now considered as a worldwide disease of small ruminants and currently represents a significant part of the detected transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) cases in Europe. Atypical/Nor98 scrapie cases were reported in ARR/ARR sheep, which are highly resistant to BSE and other small ruminants TSE agents. The biology and pathogenesis of the Atypical/Nor98 scrapie agent in its natural host is still poorly understood. However, based on the absence of detectable abnormal PrP in peripheral tissues of affected individuals, human and animal exposure risk to this specific TSE agent has been considered low. In this study we demonstrate that infectivity can accumulate, even if no abnormal PrP is detectable, in lymphoid tissues, nerves, and muscles from natural and/or experimental Atypical/Nor98 scrapie cases. Evidence is provided that, in comparison to other TSE agents, samples containing Atypical/Nor98 scrapie infectivity could remain PrPSc negative. This feature will impact detection of Atypical/Nor98 scrapie cases in the field, and highlights the need to review current evaluations of the disease prevalence and potential transmissibility. Finally, an estimate is made of the infectivity loads accumulating in peripheral tissues in both Atypical/Nor98 and classical scrapie cases that currently enter the food chain. The results obtained indicate that dietary exposure risk to small ruminants TSE agents may be higher than commonly believed.
Following the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis and the identification of its zoonotic properties, a sanitary policy has been implemented based on both eradication of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) in food-producing animals and exclusion of known infectious materials from the food chain. Atypical/Nor98 scrapie is a prion disease of small ruminants identified worldwide. Currently it represents a significant part of the TSE cases detected in Europe. The restricted tissue distribution of Atypical/Nor98 scrapie agent in its natural host and the low detected prevalence of secondary cases in affected flocks meant that it is believed to be a poorly transmissible disease. This has led to the view that Atypical/Nor98 scrapie is a spontaneous disorder for which human and animal exposure risk remains low. In this study we demonstrate that in affected individuals, Atypical/Nor98 scrapie agent can disseminate in lymphoid tissues, nerves, and muscles, challenging the idea that it is a brain-restricted infectious agent. Evidence for the deficiencies in the current methods applied for monitoring Atypical/Nor98 scrapie is provided that would indicate an underestimation in the prevalence in the general population and in the affected flocks. These elements challenge the hypothesis on the biology of this recently identified TSE agent.
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.
Since 2002, an active surveillance program for transmissible spongiform encephalopathy in small ruminants in European Union countries allowed identification of a considerable number of atypical cases with similarities to the previously identified atypical scrapie cases termed Nor98.
Here we report molecular and neuropathological features of eight atypical/Nor98 scrapie cases detected between 2002 and 2009. Significant features of the affected sheep included: their relatively high ages (mean age 7.9 years, range between 4.3 and 12.8), their breed (all Latxa) and their PRNP genotypes (AFRQ/ALRQ, ALRR/ALRQ, AFRQ/AFRQ, AFRQ/AHQ, ALRQ/ALRH, ALRQ/ALRQ). All the sheep were confirmed as atypical scrapie by immunohistochemistry and immunoblotting. Two cases presented more PrP immunolabelling in cerebral cortex than in cerebellum.
This work indicates that atypical scrapie constitutes the most common small ruminant transmissible spongiform encephalopathy form in Latxa sheep in the Spanish Basque Country. Moreover, a new genotype (ALRQ/ALRH) was found associated to atypical scrapie.
The diagnosis of scrapie, a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSEs) of sheep and goats, is currently based on the detection of disease-associated prion protein by post mortem tests. Unless a random sample of the sheep or goat population is actively monitored for scrapie, identification of scrapie cases relies on the reporting of clinical suspects, which is dependent on the individual's familiarization with the disease and ability to recognize clinical signs associated with scrapie. Scrapie may not be considered in the differential diagnosis of neurological diseases in small ruminants, particularly in countries with low scrapie prevalence, or not recognized if it presents as nonpruritic form like atypical scrapie. To aid in the identification of clinical suspects, a short examination protocol is presented to assess the display of specific clinical signs associated with pruritic and nonpruritic forms of TSEs in sheep, which could also be applied to goats. This includes assessment of behavior, vision (by testing of the menace response), pruritus (by testing the response to scratching), and movement (with and without blindfolding). This may lead to a more detailed neurologic examination of reporting animals as scrapie suspects. It could also be used in experimental TSE studies of sheep or goats to evaluate disease progression or to identify clinical end-point.
Infectious Diseases; Issue 83; transmissible spongiform encephalopathy; sheep; atypical scrapie; classical scrapie; neurologic examination; scratch test; menace response; blindfolding
Diagnosis based on prion detection in lymph nodes of sheep and goats can improve active surveillance for scrapie and, if it were circulating, for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). With sizes that allow repetitive testing and a location that is easily accessible at slaughter, retropharyngeal lymph nodes (RLN) are considered suitable organs for testing. Western blotting (WB) of brain homogenates is, in principle, a technique well suited to both detect and discriminate between scrapie and BSE. In this report, WB is developed for rapid diagnosis in RLN and to study biochemical characteristics of PrPres.
Optimal PrPres detection in RLN by WB was achieved by proper tissue processing, antibody choice and inclusion of a step for PrPresconcentration. The analyses were performed on three different sheep sources. Firstly, in a study with preclinical scrapie cases, WB of RLN from infected sheep of VRQ/VRQ genotype – VRQ represents, respectively, polymorphic PrP amino acids 136, 154, and 171 – allowed a diagnosis 14 mo earlier compared to WB of brain stem. Secondly, samples collected from sheep with confirmed scrapie in the course of passive and active surveillance programmes in the period 2002–2003 yielded positive results depending on genotype: all sheep with genotypes ARH/VRQ, VRQ/VRQ, and ARQ/VRQ scored positive for PrPres, but ARQ/ARQ and ARR/VRQ were not all positive. Thirdly, in an experimental BSE study, detection of PrPres in all 11 ARQ/ARQ sheep, including 7 preclinical cases, was possible. In all instances, WB and IHC were almost as sensitive. Moreover, BSE infection could be discriminated from scrapie infection by faster electrophoretic migration of the PrPres bands. Using dual antibody staining with selected monoclonal antibodies like 12B2 and L42, these differences in migration could be employed for an unequivocal differentiation between BSE and scrapie. With respect to glycosylation of PrPres, BSE cases exhibited a greater diglycosylated fraction than scrapie cases. Furthermore, a slight time dependent increase of diglycosylated PrPres was noted between individual sheep, which was remarkable in that it occurred in both scrapie and BSE study.
The present data indicate that, used in conjunction with testing in brain, WB of RLN can be a sensitive tool for improving surveillance of scrapie and BSE, allowing early detection of BSE and scrapie and thereby ensuring safer sheep and goat products.
After bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) emerged in European cattle livestock in 1986 a fundamental question was whether the agent established also in the small ruminants' population. In Switzerland transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) in small ruminants have been monitored since 1990. While in the most recent TSE cases a BSE infection could be excluded, for historical cases techniques to discriminate scrapie from BSE had not been available at the time of diagnosis and thus their status remained unclear. We herein applied state-of-the-art techniques to retrospectively classify these animals and to re-analyze the affected flocks for secondary cases. These results were the basis for models, simulating the course of TSEs over a period of 70 years. The aim was to come to a statistically based overall assessment of the TSE situation in the domestic small ruminant population in Switzerland.
In sum 16 TSE cases were identified in small ruminants in Switzerland since 1981, of which eight were atypical and six were classical scrapie. In two animals retrospective analysis did not allow any further classification due to the lack of appropriate tissue samples. We found no evidence for an infection with the BSE agent in the cases under investigation. In none of the affected flocks, secondary cases were identified. A Bayesian prevalence calculation resulted in most likely estimates of one case of BSE, five cases of classical scrapie and 21 cases of atypical scrapie per 100'000 small ruminants. According to our models none of the TSEs is considered to cause a broader epidemic in Switzerland. In a closed population, they are rather expected to fade out in the next decades or, in case of a sporadic origin, may remain at a very low level.
In summary, these data indicate that despite a significant epidemic of BSE in cattle, there is no evidence that BSE established in the small ruminant population in Switzerland. Classical and atypical scrapie both occur at a very low level and are not expected to escalate into an epidemic. In this situation the extent of TSE surveillance in small ruminants requires reevaluation based on cost-benefit analysis.
The protease-resistant prion protein (PrPres) of a few natural scrapie isolates identified in sheep, reminiscent of the experimental isolate CH1641 derived from a British natural scrapie case, showed partial molecular similarities to ovine bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Recent discovery of an atypical form of BSE in cattle, L-type BSE or BASE, suggests that also this form of BSE might have been transmitted to sheep. We studied by Western blot the molecular features of PrPres in four “CH1641-like” natural scrapie isolates after transmission in an ovine transgenic model (TgOvPrP4), to see if “CH1641-like” isolates might be linked to L-type BSE. We found less diglycosylated PrPres than in classical BSE, but similar glycoform proportions and apparent molecular masses of the usual PrPres form (PrPres #1) to L-type BSE. However, the “CH1641-like” isolates differed from both L-type and classical BSE by an abundant, C-terminally cleaved PrPres product (PrPres #2) specifically recognised by a C-terminal antibody (SAF84). Differential immunoprecipitation of PrPres #1 and PrPres #2 resulted in enrichment in PrPres #2, and demonstrated the presence of mono- and diglycosylated PrPres products. PrPres #2 could not be obtained from several experimental scrapie sources (SSBP1, 79A, Chandler, C506M3) in TgOvPrP4 mice, but was identified in the 87V scrapie strain and, in lower and variable proportions, in 5 of 5 natural scrapie isolates with different molecular features to CH1641. PrPres #2 identification provides an additional method for the molecular discrimination of prion strains, and demonstrates differences between “CH1641-like” ovine scrapie and bovine L-type BSE transmitted in an ovine transgenic mouse model.
The origin of the transmissible agent involved in the food-borne epidemic of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) remains a mystery. It has recently been proposed that this could have been the result of the recycling of an atypical, more probably sporadic, form of BSE (called bovine amyloidotic spongiform encephalopathy, or L-type BSE) in an intermediate host, such as sheep. In this study we analyzed the molecular features of the disease-associated protease-resistant prion protein (PrPres) found in the brain of transgenic mice overexpressing the ovine prion protein after experimental infection with prions from bovine classical and L-type BSEs or from ovine scrapie. Scrapie cases included rare “CH1641-like” isolates, which share some PrPres molecular features with classical BSE and L-type BSE. Scrapie isolates induced in transgenic mouse brains the production of a C-terminally cleaved form of PrPres, which was particularly abundant from “CH1641-like” cases. In contrast, this C-terminal prion protein product was undetectable in ovine transgenic mice infected with bovine prions from both classical and L-type BSE. These findings add a novel approach for the discrimination of prions that may help to understand their possible changes during cross-species transmissions.
Active surveillance for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in small ruminants has been an EU regulatory requirement since 2002. A number of European countries have subsequently reported cases of atypical scrapie, similar to previously published cases from Norway, which have pathological and molecular features distinct from classical scrapie. Most cases have occurred singly in flocks, associated with genotypes considered to be more resistant to classical disease. Experimental transmissibility of such isolates has been reported in certain ovinised transgenic mice, but has not previously been reported in the natural host. Information on the transmissibility of this agent is vital to ensuring that disease control measures are effective and proportionate.
This report presents the successful experimental transmission, in 378 days, of atypical scrapie to a recipient sheep of homologous genotype with preservation of the pathological and molecular characteristics of the donor. This isolate also transmitted to ovinised transgenic mice (Tg338) with a murine phenotype indistinguishable from that of Nor 98.
This result strengthens the opinion that these cases result from a distinct strain of scrapie agent, which is potentially transmissible in the natural host under field conditions.
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.
Prions; Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy; Scrapie; Sheep; PMCA
Scrapie is a fatal, neurodegenerative disease of sheep and goats. It is also the earliest known member in the family of diseases classified as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) or prion diseases, which includes Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), and chronic wasting disease in cervids. The recent revelation of naturally occurring BSE in a goat has brought the issue of TSE in goats to the attention of the public. In contrast to scrapie, BSE presents a proven risk to humans. The risk of goat BSE, however, is difficult to evaluate, as our knowledge of TSE in goats is limited. Natural caprine scrapie has been discovered throughout Europe, with reported cases generally being greatest in countries with the highest goat populations. As with sheep scrapie, susceptibility and incubation period duration of goat scrapie are most likely controlled by the prion protein (PrP) gene (PRNP). Like the PRNP of sheep, the caprine PRNP shows significantly greater variability than that of cattle and humans. Although PRNP variability in goats differs from that observed in sheep, the two species share several identical alleles. Moreover, while the ARR allele associated with enhancing resistance in sheep is not present in the goat PRNP, there is evidence for the existence of other PrP variants related to resistance. This review presents the current knowledge of the epidemiology of caprine scrapie within the major European goat populations, and compiles the current data on genetic variability of PRNP.
transmissible spongiform encephalopathy; prion protein; genetics; goat; scrapie
Due to the apparent absence of an agent-specific nucleic acid genome, scrapie strains cannot be classified by genome characterization, which is commonly used for the classification of many viruses. However, scrapie strains can be distinguished to some extent by biological properties such as transmissibility to experimental animals and distribution of neuropathological lesions and by biochemical properties such as the molecular mass and relative protease-resistance of the disease-specific isoform of prion protein (PrPSc). In order to preliminarily characterize the scrapie strains that are prevalent in Japan, we analyzed the transmissibility of sheep scrapie isolates to mice and the relative proteinase K (PK) resistance of the corresponding PrPSc. The results indicate that Japanese scrapie strains can be divided into at least three groups based on biological and biochemical properties. The first group includes isolates which cause disease in mice with an incubation period of ∼400 days and possess PrPSc with relatively high PK resistance. Isolates of the second group contain PrPSc that is highly resistant to PK digestion but transmit poorly to mice. The final group consists of isolates that cause disease in mice with an incubation period of less than 300 days and are associated with PrPSc with reduced PK resistance. Sheep scrapie has occurred sporadically in Japan since1982, with only ∼60 officially reported cases so far. However, the diversity of scrapie strains in the field suggested by our data raises the concern that a scrapie strain similar to the parental agent of bovine spongiform encephalopathy could exist or emerge in Japan. Thus, continuous surveillance for scrapie will be required to prevent the further spread of scrapie, not only among the sheep population but also to other species, and to eliminate any potential risk of sheep scrapie to public health.
Scrapie in sheep and goats has been known for more than 250 years and belongs nowadays to the so-called prion diseases that also include e.g. bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle (BSE) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. According to the prion hypothesis, the pathological isoform (PrPSc) of the cellular prion protein (PrPc) comprises the essential, if not exclusive, component of the transmissible agent. Currently, two types of scrapie disease are known - classical and atypical/Nor98 scrapie. In the present study we examine 24 cases of classical and 25 cases of atypical/Nor98 scrapie with the sensitive PET blot method and validate the results with conventional immunohistochemistry. The sequential detection of PrPSc aggregates in the CNS of classical scrapie sheep implies that after neuroinvasion a spread from spinal cord and obex to the cerebellum, diencephalon and frontal cortex via the rostral brainstem takes place. We categorize the spread of PrPSc into four stages: the CNS entry stage, the brainstem stage, the cruciate sulcus stage and finally the basal ganglia stage. Such a sequential development of PrPSc was not detectable upon analysis of the present atypical/Nor98 scrapie cases. PrPSc distribution in one case of atypical/Nor98 scrapie in a presumably early disease phase suggests that the spread of PrPSc aggregates starts in the di- or telencephalon. In addition to the spontaneous generation of PrPSc, an uptake of the infectious agent into the brain, that bypasses the brainstem and starts its accumulation in the thalamus, needs to be taken into consideration for atypical/Nor98 scrapie.
We report 2 natural scrapie cases in sheep carrying the ARR/ARR prion genotype, which is believed to confer resistance against classic scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
In the past, natural scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) infections have essentially not been diagnosed in sheep homozygous for the A136R154R171 haplotype of the prion protein. This genotype was therefore assumed to confer resistance to BSE and classic scrapie under natural exposure conditions. Hence, to exclude prions from the human food chain, massive breeding efforts have been undertaken in the European Union to amplify this gene. We report the identification of 2 natural scrapie cases in ARR/ARR sheep that have biochemical and transmission characteristics similar to cases of classic scrapie, although the abnormally folded prion protein (PrPSc) was associated with a lower proteinase-K resistance. PrPSc was clearly distinct from BSE prions passaged in sheep and from atypical scrapie prions. These findings strongly support the idea that scrapie prions are a mosaic of agents, which harbor different biologic properties, rather than a unique entity.
Prion; scrapie; bovine spongiform encephalopathy; research
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.
Atypical scrapie or Nor98 has been identified as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) that is clearly distinguishable from classical scrapie and BSE, notably regarding the biochemical features of the protease-resistant prion protein PrPres and the genetic factors involved in susceptibility to the disease. In this study we transmitted the disease from a series of 12 French atypical scrapie isolates in a transgenic mouse model (TgOvPrP4) overexpressing in the brain ∼0.25, 1.5 or 6× the levels of the PrPARQ ovine prion protein under the control of the neuron-specific enolase promoter. We used an approach based on serum PrPc measurements that appeared to reflect the different PrPc expression levels in the central nervous system. We found that transmission of atypical scrapie, much more than in classical scrapie or BSE, was strongly influenced by the PrPc expression levels of TgOvPrP4 inoculated mice. Whereas TgOvPrP4 mice overexpressing ∼6× the normal PrPc level died after a survival periods of 400 days, those with ∼1.5× the normal PrPc level died at around 700 days. The transmission of atypical scrapie in TgOvPrP4 mouse line was also strongly influenced by the prnp genotypes of the animal source of atypical scrapie. Isolates carrying the AF141RQ or AHQ alleles, associated with increased disease susceptibility in the natural host, showed a higher transmissibility in TgOvPrP4 mice. The biochemical analysis of PrPres in TgOvPrP4 mouse brains showed a fully conserved pattern, compared to that in the natural host, with three distinct PrPres products. Our results throw light on the transmission features of atypical scrapie and suggest that the risk of transmission is intrinsically lower than that of classical scrapie or BSE, especially in relation to the expression level of the prion protein.
Atypical scrapie is a recently recognised form of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy of sheep that differs from classical scrapie in its neuropathological and biochemical features. Most cases are detected in apparently healthy sheep and information on the clinical presentation is limited.
This report describes the clinical findings in two sheep notified as scrapie suspects and confirmed as atypical scrapie cases by immunohistochemistry and Western immunoblotting. Although both sheep displayed signs suggestive of a cerebellar dysfunction there was considerable variation in the individual clinical signs, which were similar to classical scrapie.
Any sheep presenting with neurological gait deficits should be assessed more closely for other behavioural, neurological and physical signs associated with scrapie and their presence should lead to the suspicion of scrapie.
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.
Since 2004 it become clear that atypical bovine spongiform encephalopthies (BSEs) exist in cattle. Whenever their detection has relied on active surveillance plans implemented in Europe since 2001 by rapid tests, the overall and inter-laboratory performance of these diagnostic systems in the detection of the atypical strains has not been studied thoroughly to date. To fill this gap, the present study reports on the analytical sensitivity of the EU-approved rapid tests for atypical L- and H-type and classical BSE in parallel. Each test was challenged with two dilution series, one created from a positive pool of the three BSE forms according to the EURL standard method of homogenate preparation (50% w/v) and the other as per the test kit manufacturer's instructions. Multilevel logistic models and simple logistic models with the rapid test as the only covariate were fitted for each BSE form analyzed as directed by the test manufacturer's dilution protocol. The same schemes, but excluding the BSE type, were then applied to compare test performance under the manufacturer's versus the water protocol. The IDEXX HerdChek ® BSE-scrapie short protocol test showed the highest sensitivity for all BSE forms. The IDEXX® HerdChek BSE-scrapie ultra short protocol, the Prionics® - Check WESTERN and the AJ Roboscreen® BetaPrion tests showed similar sensitivities, followed by the Roche® PrionScreen, the Bio-Rad® TeSeE™ SAP and the Prionics® - Check PrioSTRIP in descending order of analytical sensitivity. Despite these differences, the limit of detection of all seven rapid tests against the different classes of material set within a 2 log10 range of the best-performing test, thus meeting the European Food Safety Authority requirement for BSE surveillance purposes. These findings indicate that not many atypical cases would have been missed surveillance since 2001 which is important for further epidemiological interpretations of the sporadic character of atypical forms.
Atypical scrapie was first identified in Norwegian sheep in 1998 and has subsequently been identified in many countries. Retrospective studies have identified cases predating the initial identification of this form of scrapie, and epidemiological studies have indicated that it does not conform to the behaviour of an infectious disease, giving rise to the hypothesis that it represents spontaneous disease.
However, atypical scrapie isolates have been shown to be infectious experimentally, through intracerebral inoculation in transgenic mice and sheep. The first successful challenge of a sheep with 'field' atypical scrapie from an homologous donor sheep was reported in 2007.
This study demonstrates that atypical scrapie has distinct clinical, pathological and biochemical characteristics which are maintained on transmission and sub-passage, and which are distinct from other strains of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in the same host genotype.
Atypical scrapie is consistently transmissible within AHQ homozygous sheep, and the disease phenotype is preserved on sub-passage.
Susceptibility of sheep to scrapie, a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy of small ruminants, is strongly influenced by polymorphisms of the prion protein gene (PRNP). Breeding programs have been implemented to increase scrapie resistance in sheep populations; though desirable, a similar approach has not yet been applied in goats. European studies have now suggested that several polymorphisms can modulate scrapie susceptibility in goats: in particular, PRNP variant K222 has been associated with resistance in case-control studies in Italy, France and Greece. In this study we investigated the resistance conferred by this variant using a natural Italian goat scrapie isolate to intracerebrally challenge five goats carrying genotype Q/Q 222 (wild type) and five goats carrying genotype Q/K 222. By the end of the study, all five Q/Q 222 goats had died of scrapie after a mean incubation period of 19 months; one of the five Q/K 222 goats died after 24 months, while the other four were alive and apparently healthy up to the end of the study at 4.5 years post-challenge. All five of these animals were found to be scrapie negative. Statistical analysis showed that the probability of survival of the Q/K 222 goats versus the Q/Q 222 goats was significantly higher (p = 0.002). Our study shows that PRNP gene mutation K222 is strongly associated with resistance to classical scrapie also in experimental conditions, making it a potentially positive target for selection in the frame of breeding programs for resistance to classical scrapie in goats.
Classical scrapie is a neurological disorder of the central nervous system (CNS) characterized by the accumulation of an abnormal, partially protease resistant prion protein (PrPsc) in the CNS and in some peripheral tissues in domestic small ruminants. Whereas the pathological changes and genetic susceptibility of ovine scrapie are well known, caprine scrapie has been less well studied. We report here a pathological study of 13 scrapie-affected goats diagnosed in Spain during the last 9 years. We used immunohistochemical and biochemical techniques to discriminate between classical and atypical scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). All the animals displayed PrPsc distribution patterns and western blot characteristics compatible with classical scrapie. In addition, we determined the complete open reading frame sequence of the PRNP in these scrapie-affected animals. The polymorphisms observed were compared with those of the herd mates (n = 665) and with the frequencies of healthy herds (n = 581) of native Spanish goats (Retinta, Pirenaica and Moncaina) and other worldwide breeds reared in Spain (Saanen, Alpine and crossbreed). In total, sixteen polymorphic sites were identified, including the known amino acid substitutions at codons G37V, G127S, M137I, I142M, H143R, R151H, R154H, R211Q, Q222K, G232W, and P240S, and new polymorphisms at codons G74D, M112T, R139S, L141F and Q215R. In addition, the known 42, 138 and 179 silent mutations were detected, and one new one is reported at codon 122. The genetic differences observed in the population studied have been attributed to breed and most of the novel polymorphic codons show frequencies lower than 5%. This work provides the first basis of polymorphic distribution of PRNP in native and worldwide goat breeds reared in Spain.
Domestic goats (Capra hircus) are a natural and experimental host of scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) of sheep and cattle. Goats are also susceptible to experimental infection with the agents of TSEs of deer and elk (chronic wasting disease) and humans (Creutzfeldt Jakob disease). Distribution of PrPSc, the abnormal prion protein, is similar in the tissues of scrapie-infected sheep and goats but no data are available on the potential shedding of the agent through the placenta, the presumed route of transmission of ovine scrapie. We describe the sparse accumulation of PrPSc in the placentas of goats with naturally acquired classical scrapie in comparison to field cases of classical ovine scrapie.
PrPSc was detected in the shed placentas from a sample of U.S. goats with naturally occurring scrapie, diagnosed by antemortem lymphoid tissue biopsy or identified as high risk progeny of infected dams. PrPSc accumulation patterns in the intact placentome and western blot banding was similar in the caprine and ovine samples. However, levels of PrPSc estimated from ELISA and immunohistochemistry assays were generally lower in goats than in sheep, although wide variation was noted in both species.
PrPSc accumulates in the shed placentas of goats with naturally acquired scrapie. Although these levels were low in most caprine samples, the caprine placenta may contribute to prion contamination of kidding facilities and transmission to co-housed sheep or goats.