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1.  Assessment of the Impact of the 2003 and 2006 Heat Waves on Cattle Mortality in France 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e93176.
While several studies have highlighted and quantified human mortality during the major heat waves that struck Western Europe in 2003 and 2006, the impact on farm animals has been overlooked. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of these two events on cattle mortality in France, one of the most severely impacted countries.
Poisson regressions were used to model the national baseline for cattle mortality between 2004 and 2005 and predict the weekly number of expected deaths in 2003 and 2006 for the whole cattle population and by subpopulation based on age and type of production. Observed and estimated values were compared to identify and quantify excess mortality. The same approach was used at a departmental scale (a French department being an administrative and territorial division) to assess the spatio-temporal evolution of the mortality pattern.
Overall, the models estimated relative excess mortality of 24% [95% confidence interval: 22–25%] for the two-week heat wave of 2003, and 12% [11–14%] for the three-week heat wave of 2006. In 2003, most cattle subpopulations were impacted during the heat wave and some in the following weeks too. In 2006, cattle subpopulations were impacted for a limited time only, with no excess mortality at the beginning or after the heat wave. No marked differences in cattle mortality were found among the different subpopulations by age and type of production. The implications of these results for risk prevention are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3965539  PMID: 24667835
2.  Assessing the Mandatory Bovine Abortion Notification System in France Using Unilist Capture-Recapture Approach 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63246.
The mandatory bovine abortion notification system in France aims to detect as soon as possible any resurgence of bovine brucellosis. However, under-reporting seems to be a major limitation of this system. We used a unilist capture-recapture approach to assess the sensitivity, i.e. the proportion of farmers who reported at least one abortion among those who detected such events, and representativeness of the system during 2006–2011. We implemented a zero-inflated Poisson model to estimate the proportion of farmers who detected at least one abortion, and among them, the proportion of farmers not reporting. We also applied a hurdle model to evaluate the effect of factors influencing the notification process. We found that the overall surveillance sensitivity was about 34%, and was higher in beef than dairy cattle farms. The observed increase in the proportion of notifying farmers from 2007 to 2009 resulted from an increase in the surveillance sensitivity in 2007/2008 and an increase in the proportion of farmers who detected at least one abortion in 2008/2009. These patterns suggest a raise in farmers’ awareness in 2007/2008 when the Bluetongue Virus (BTV) was detected in France, followed by an increase in the number of abortions in 2008/2009 as BTV spread across the country. Our study indicated a lack of sensitivity of the mandatory bovine abortion notification system, raising concerns about the ability to detect brucellosis outbreaks early. With the increasing need to survey the zoonotic Rift Valley Fever and Q fever diseases that may also cause bovine abortions, our approach is of primary interest for animal health stakeholders to develop information programs to increase abortion notifications. Our framework combining hurdle and ZIP models may also be applied to estimate the completeness of other clinical surveillance systems.
PMCID: PMC3653928  PMID: 23691004
3.  Defining syndromes using cattle meat inspection data for syndromic surveillance purposes: a statistical approach with the 2005–2010 data from ten French slaughterhouses 
The slaughterhouse is a central processing point for food animals and thus a source of both demographic data (age, breed, sex) and health-related data (reason for condemnation and condemned portions) that are not available through other sources. Using these data for syndromic surveillance is therefore tempting. However many possible reasons for condemnation and condemned portions exist, making the definition of relevant syndromes challenging.
The objective of this study was to determine a typology of cattle with at least one portion of the carcass condemned in order to define syndromes. Multiple factor analysis (MFA) in combination with clustering methods was performed using both health-related data and demographic data.
Analyses were performed on 381,186 cattle with at least one portion of the carcass condemned among the 1,937,917 cattle slaughtered in ten French abattoirs. Results of the MFA and clustering methods led to 12 clusters considered as stable according to year of slaughter and slaughterhouse. One cluster was specific to a disease of public health importance (cysticercosis). Two clusters were linked to the slaughtering process (fecal contamination of heart or lungs and deterioration lesions). Two clusters respectively characterized by chronic liver lesions and chronic peritonitis could be linked to diseases of economic importance to farmers. Three clusters could be linked respectively to reticulo-pericarditis, fatty liver syndrome and farmer’s lung syndrome, which are related to both diseases of economic importance to farmers and herd management issues. Three clusters respectively characterized by arthritis, myopathy and Dark Firm Dry (DFD) meat could notably be linked to animal welfare issues. Finally, one cluster, characterized by bronchopneumonia, could be linked to both animal health and herd management issues.
The statistical approach of combining multiple factor analysis with cluster analysis showed its relevance for the detection of syndromes using available large and complex slaughterhouse data. The advantages of this statistical approach are to i) define groups of reasons for condemnation based on meat inspection data, ii) help grouping reasons for condemnation among a list of various possible reasons for condemnation for which a consensus among experts could be difficult to reach, iii) assign each animal to a single syndrome which allows the detection of changes in trends of syndromes to detect unusual patterns in known diseases and emergence of new diseases.
PMCID: PMC3681570  PMID: 23628140
Syndromic surveillance; Animal health; Meat inspection; Slaughterhouses; Cattle
4.  Differentiation of Prions from L-type BSE versus Sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2012;18(12):2028-2031.
We compared transmission characteristics for prions from L-type bovine spongiform encephalopathy and MM2-cortical sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the Syrian golden hamster and an ovine prion protein–transgenic mouse line and isolated distinct prion strains. Our findings suggest the absence of a causal relationship between these diseases, but further investigation is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3557863  PMID: 23171544
prions; Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; sporadic; sCJD; bovine spongiform encephalopathy; BSE; L-type; strain; bioassay; prions and related diseases; lemur; hamster; human
5.  Individual factors associated with L- and H-type Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in France 
Cattle with L-type (L-BSE) and H-type (H-BSE) atypical Bovine Spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) were identified in 2003 in Italy and France respectively before being identified in other countries worldwide. As of December 2011, around 60 atypical BSE cases have currently been reported in 13 countries, with over one third in France. While the epidemiology of classical BSE (C-BSE) has been widely described, atypical BSEs are still poorly documented, but appear to differ from C-BSE. We analysed the epidemiological characteristics of the 12 cases of L-BSE and 11 cases of H-BSE detected in France from January 2001 to late 2009 and looked for individual risk factors. As L-BSE cases did not appear to be homogeneously distributed throughout the country, two complementary methods were used: spatial analysis and regression modelling. L-BSE and H-BSE were studied separately as both the biochemical properties of their pathological prion protein and their features differ in animal models.
The median age at detection for L-BSE and H-BSE cases was 12.4 (range 8.4-18.7) and 12.5 (8.3-18.2) years respectively, with no significant difference between the two distributions. However, this median age differed significantly from that of classical BSE (7.0 (range 3.5-15.4) years). A significant geographical cluster was detected for L-BSE. Among animals over eight years of age, we showed that the risk of being detected as a L-BSE case increased with age at death. This was not the case for H-BSE.
To the best of our knowledge this is the first study to describe the epidemiology of the two types of atypical BSE. The geographical cluster detected for L-BSE could be partly due to the age structure of the background-tested bovine population. Our regression analyses, which adjusted for the effect of age and birth cohort showed an age effect for L-BSE and the descriptive analysis showed a particular age structure in the area where the cluster was detected. No birth cohort effect was evident. The relatively small number of cases of atypical BSE and the few individual data available for the tested population limited our analysis to the investigation of age and cohort effect only. We conclude that it is essential to maintain BSE surveillance to further elucidate our findings.
PMCID: PMC3514362  PMID: 22647660
Atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy; L-BSE; H-BSE; Spatial analysis; Risk factors; France
6.  Unsupervised clustering of wildlife necropsy data for syndromic surveillance 
The importance of wildlife disease surveillance is increasing, because wild animals are playing a growing role as sources of emerging infectious disease events in humans. Syndromic surveillance methods have been developed as a complement to traditional health data analyses, to allow the early detection of unusual health events. Early detection of these events in wildlife could help to protect the health of domestic animals or humans. This paper aims to define syndromes that could be used for the syndromic surveillance of wildlife health data. Wildlife disease monitoring in France, from 1986 onward, has allowed numerous diagnostic data to be collected from wild animals found dead. The authors wanted to identify distinct pathological profiles from these historical data by a global analysis of the registered necropsy descriptions, and discuss how these profiles can be used to define syndromes. In view of the multiplicity and heterogeneity of the available information, the authors suggest constructing syndromic classes by a multivariate statistical analysis and classification procedure grouping cases that share similar pathological characteristics.
A three-step procedure was applied: first, a multiple correspondence analysis was performed on necropsy data to reduce them to their principal components. Then hierarchical ascendant clustering was used to partition the data. Finally the k-means algorithm was applied to strengthen the partitioning. Nine clusters were identified: three were species- and disease-specific, three were suggestive of specific pathological conditions but not species-specific, two covered a broader pathological condition and one was miscellaneous. The clusters reflected the most distinct and most frequent disease entities on which the surveillance network focused. They could be used to define distinct syndromes characterised by specific post-mortem findings.
The chosen statistical clustering method was found to be a useful tool to retrospectively group cases from our database into distinct and meaningful pathological entities. Syndrome definition from post-mortem findings is potentially useful for early outbreak detection because it uses the earliest available information on disease in wildlife. Furthermore, the proposed typology allows each case to be attributed to a syndrome, thus enabling the exhaustive surveillance of health events through time series analyses.
PMCID: PMC3018415  PMID: 21162732
7.  Prions of Ruminants Show Distinct Splenotropisms in an Ovine Transgenic Mouse Model 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10310.
Transmissible agents involved in prion diseases differ in their capacities to target different regions of the central nervous system and lymphoid tissues, which are also host-dependent.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Protease-resistant prion protein (PrPres) was analysed by Western blot in the spleen of transgenic mice (TgOvPrP4) that express the ovine prion protein under the control of the neuron-specific enolase promoter, after infection by intra-cerebral route with a variety of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) from cattle and small ruminants. Splenic PrPres was consistently detected in classical BSE and in most natural scrapie sources, the electrophoretic pattern showing similar features to that of cerebral PrPres. However splenic PrPres was not detected in L-type BSE and TME-in-cattle, or in the CH1641 experimental scrapie isolate, indicating that some TSE strains showed reduced splenotropism in the ovine transgenic mice. In contrast with CH1641, PrPres was also consistently detected in the spleen of mice infected with six natural “CH1641-like” scrapie isolates, but then showed clearly different molecular features from those identified in the brains (unglycosylated PrPres at ∼18 kDa with removal of the 12B2 epitope) of ovine transgenic mice or of sheep. These features included different cleavage of the main PrPres cleavage product (unglycosylated PrPres at ∼19 kDa with preservation of the 12B2 epitope) and absence of the additional C-terminally cleaved PrPres product (unglycosylated form at ∼14 kDa) that was detected in the brain.
Studies in a transgenic mouse model expressing the sheep prion protein revealed different capacities of ruminant prions to propagate in the spleen. They showed unexpected features in “CH1641-like” ovine scrapie suggesting that such isolates contain mixed conformers with distinct capacities to propagate in the brain or lymphoid tissues of these mice.
PMCID: PMC2859945  PMID: 20436680
8.  Transmissibility of Atypical Scrapie in Ovine Transgenic Mice: Major Effects of Host Prion Protein Expression and Donor Prion Genotype 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7300.
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.
PMCID: PMC2752806  PMID: 19806224
9.  A Case–Control Study on the Origin of Atypical Scrapie in Sheep, France  
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2009;15(5):710-718.
Risk factors for this disease suggest a noninfectious origin influenced by genetic and metabolic factors.
A matched case–control study (95 cases and 220 controls) was designed to study risk factors for atypical scrapie in sheep in France. We analyzed contacts with animals from other flocks, lambing and feeding practices, and exposure to toxic substances. Data on the prnp genotype were collected for some case and control animals and included in a complementary analysis. Sheep dairy farms had a higher risk for scrapie (odds ratio [OR] 15.1, 95% confidence interval [CI] 3.3–69.7). Lower risk was associated with organic farms (OR 0.15, 95% CI 0.02–1.26), feeding corn silage (OR 0.16, 95% CI 0.05–0.53), and feeding vitamin and mineral supplements (OR 0.6, 95% CI 0.32–1.14). Genetic effects were quantitatively important but only marginally changed estimates of other variables. We did not find any risk factor associated with an infectious origin of scrapie. Atypical scrapie could be a spontaneous disease influenced by genetic and metabolic factors.
PMCID: PMC2687017  PMID: 19402956
Prions and related diseases; scrapie; transmissible spongiform encephalopathy; case–control study; sheep; epidemiology; France; research
10.  A C-Terminal Protease-Resistant Prion Fragment Distinguishes Ovine “CH1641-Like” Scrapie from Bovine Classical and L-Type BSE in Ovine Transgenic Mice 
PLoS Pathogens  2008;4(8):e1000137.
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.
Author Summary
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.
PMCID: PMC2516186  PMID: 18769714
11.  Atypical Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathies, France, 2001–2007 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2008;14(2):298-300.
In France, through exhaustive active surveillance, ≈17.1 million adult cattle were tested for bovine spongiform encephalopathy from July 2001 through July 2007; ≈3.6 million were >8 years of age. Our retrospective Western blot study of all 645 confirmed cases found that 7 were H-type and 6 were L-type.
PMCID: PMC2600212  PMID: 18258124
BSE; H-type; L-type; BASE; prion; cattle; dispatch
12.  Phenotypic Similarity of Transmissible Mink Encephalopathy in Cattle and L-type Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in a Mouse Model 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2007;13(12):1887-1894.
L-type BSE is a more likely candidate for the origin of TME than typical BSE.
Transmissible mink encepholapathy (TME) is a foodborne transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) of ranch-raised mink; infection with a ruminant TSE has been proposed as the cause, but the precise origin of TME is unknown. To compare the phenotypes of each TSE, bovine-passaged TME isolate and 3 distinct natural bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) agents (typical BSE, H-type BSE, and L-type BSE) were inoculated into an ovine transgenic mouse line (TgOvPrP4). Transgenic mice were susceptible to infection with bovine-passaged TME, typical BSE, and L-type BSE but not to H-type BSE. Based on survival periods, brain lesions profiles, disease-associated prion protein brain distribution, and biochemical properties of protease-resistant prion protein, typical BSE had a distint phenotype in ovine transgenic mice compared to L-type BSE and bovine TME. The similar phenotypic properties of L-type BSE and bovine TME in TgOvPrP4 mice suggest that L-type BSE is a much more likely candidate for the origin of TME than is typical BSE.
PMCID: PMC2876762  PMID: 18258040
prion; BSE; BASE; L-type; TME; mink; scrapie; research

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