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1.  EU-Approved Rapid Tests for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Detect Atypical Forms: A Study for Their Sensitivities 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e43133.
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.
PMCID: PMC3439472  PMID: 22984410
2.  A relevant long-term impact of the circulation of a potentially contaminated vaccine on the distribution of scrapie in Italy. Results from a retrospective cohort study 
Veterinary Research  2012;43(1):63.
A sudden increase in the incidence of scrapie in Italy in 1997 was subsequently linked to the use of a potentially infected vaccine against contagious agalactia. The relative risk for the exposed farms ranged between 6 and 40. The aim of this study was to assess the long-term impact of exposure to the potentially scrapie-contaminated vaccine on the Italian classical scrapie epidemic. We carried out a retrospective cohort study, fitting mixed-effects Poisson regression models, dividing national geographic areas into exposure categories on the basis of the vaccine circulation levels. We took into account the sensitivity of the surveillance system applied in the different areas. The population attributable fraction (PAF) was used to assess the impact on the total population of farms associated with the effect of circulation of the vaccine. The provinces where the vaccine was more often sold were noted to have a higher level of disease when compared to those provinces where the vaccine was sold less often (incidence rate ratio [IRR]: 2.7; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.1-6.5). The population attributable fraction was high (68.4%). Standardization techniques allowed to account for the potential of geographical variability in the sensitivity of the Italian surveillance system. Although the number of the directly exposed farms was limited, an important long-term impact of the vaccine circulation could be quantified in terms of secondary outbreaks likely due to the exchange of animals from directly exposed flocks.
PMCID: PMC3485622  PMID: 22928815
3.  Effect of autolysis on the specificity of bovine spongiform encephalopathy rapid tests 
BMC Research Notes  2010;3:193.
Routine rapid testing for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) has highlighted some problems with BSE rapid test performance, the most significant being the number of initially reactive samples and the false positive results on autolyzed tissue. This point is important for BSE active surveillance in risk populations, because tissue autolysis is often unavoidable in routine cases. A robust test suitable for use on field material is therefore needed. To date, very limited information regarding the effect of autolysis on the robustness of rapid tests has been documented; therefore, the National Reference Centre for Animal Encephalopathies (CEA) rapid test laboratory selected 450 autolyzed and negative brain stem samples from fallen stock bovines older than 24 months to assess the specificity of four tests approved for BSE active surveillance: Biorad TeSeE, Enfer TSE version 2.0, Prionics® Check LIA, and IDEXX Herd Check BSE Antigen Kit EIA. The samples were graded according to the degree of autolysis and then dissected into five portions, four of which randomly assigned to processing by rapid tests and one to be available for confirmatory Western blot analysis.
The specificity of the four systems was 100% for all three grades of autolysis, while the percentage of initially reactive results was 0.00 (95%CI 0.00-0.82), 0.22 (95%CI 0.006-1.23), 0.44 (95%CI 0.05-1.60), and 0.89 (95%CI 0.24-2.26) for the Biorad TeSeE, the Prionics® Check LIA, the IDEXX Herd Check BSE and the Enfer TSE tests, respectively. No association with the degree of autolysis could be drawn.
The present study demonstrates that the four rapid tests can be considered well-running diagnostic tools regardless of tissue quality; nevertheless, the number of initial reactive samples reported for some systems must not be underestimated in routine testing.
Furthermore the compliance with the reported performance can be guaranteed only when an ongoing high careful batch quality control system is in place.
PMCID: PMC2917436  PMID: 20630059
4.  The prevalence of atypical scrapie in sheep from positive flocks is not higher than in the general sheep population in 11 European countries 
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.
PMCID: PMC2832631  PMID: 20137097

Results 1-4 (4)