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1.  Bovine spongiform encephalopathy: the effect of oral exposure dose on attack rate and incubation period in cattle – an update 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:674.
To provide information on dose–response and aid in modelling the exposure dynamics of the BSE epidemic in the United Kingdom groups of cattle were exposed orally to a range of different doses of brainstem homogenate of known infectious titre from clinical cases of classical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Interim data from this study was published in 2007. This communication documents additional BSE cases, which occurred subsequently, examines possible influence of the bovine prion protein gene on disease incidence and revises estimates of effective oral exposure.
Following interim published results, two further cattle, one dosed with 100 mg and culled at 127 months post exposure and the other dosed with 10 mg and culled at 110 months post exposure, developed BSE. Both had a similar pathological phenotype to previous cases. Based on attack rate and incubation period distribution according to dose, the dose estimate at which 50% of confirmed cases would be clinically affected was revised to 0.15 g of the brain homogenate used in the experiment, with a 95% confidence interval of 0.03–0.79 g. Neither the full open reading frame nor the promoter region of the prion protein gene of dosed cattle appeared to influence susceptibility to BSE, but this may be due to the sample size.
Oral exposure of cattle to a large range of doses of a BSE brainstem homogenate produced disease in all dose groups. The pathological presentation resembled natural disease. The attack rate and incubation period were dependent on the dose.
PMCID: PMC3543162  PMID: 23217206
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy; BSE; Cattle; Oral dose; Dose–response; Attack rate; Incubation period; Model; Risk of infection; Prion protein gene
2.  Studies of the transmissibility of the agent of bovine spongiform encephalopathy to the domestic chicken 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:501.
Transmission of the prion disease bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) occurred accidentally to cattle and several other mammalian species via feed supplemented with meat and bone meal contaminated with infected bovine tissue. Prior to United Kingdom controls in 1996 on the feeding of mammalian meat and bone meal to farmed animals, the domestic chicken was potentially exposed to feed contaminated with the causal agent of BSE. Although confirmed prion diseases are unrecorded in avian species a study was undertaken to transmit BSE to the domestic chicken by parenteral and oral inoculations. Transmissibility was assessed by clinical monitoring, histopathological examinations, detection of a putative disease form of an avian prion protein (PrP) in recipient tissues and by mouse bioassay of tissues. Occurrence of a progressive neurological syndrome in the primary transmission study was investigated by sub-passage experiments.
No clinical, pathological or bioassay evidence of transmission of BSE to the chicken was obtained in the primary or sub-passage experiments. Survival data showed no significant differences between control and treatment groups. Neurological signs observed, not previously described in the domestic chicken, were not associated with significant pathology. The diagnostic techniques applied failed to detect a disease associated form of PrP.
Important from a risk assessment perspective, the present study has established that the domestic chicken does not develop a prion disease after large parenteral exposures to the BSE agent or after oral exposures equivalent to previous exposures via commercial diets. Future investigations into the potential susceptibility of avian species to mammalian prion diseases require species-specific immunochemical techniques and more refined experimental models.
PMCID: PMC3341577  PMID: 22093239
3.  Heart rate variability analysis in sheep affected by transmissible spongiform encephalopathies 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:539.
The function of the autonomic nervous system can be assessed by determining heart rate variability (HRV), which is impaired in some brainstem diseases in humans. Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) in sheep are diseases characterised by accumulation of disease-associated prion protein in the brainstem, including nuclei of the parasympathetic nervous system. This study was undertaken to assess whether analysis of HRV can be used as an aid in the diagnosis of TSEs in clinically affected, naturally or experimentally infected sheep.
When HRV indices were compared between 41 clinical TSE cases (18 sheep infected with scrapie and 23 sheep infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy), 11 control sheep and six sheep reported as scrapie suspects or dosed with BSE brain homogenate, which were not confirmed as TSE cases by postmortem tests, no significant differences were found between the groups. Median heart rate was significantly different but only when sheep were grouped by gender: it was higher in female TSE cases than in control sheep and higher in female than castrated male ovine classical BSE cases.
HRV analysis was not useful as a diagnostic aid for TSEs of sheep.
PMCID: PMC3265556  PMID: 22168827
4.  Time and frequency domain analysis of heart rate variability in cattle affected by bovine spongiform encephalopathy 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:259.
Heart rate variability (HRV) analysis is a method to assess the function of the autonomic nervous system. Brainstem nuclei that influence HRV are affected by vacuolar changes and accumulation of disease-associated prion protein (PrPd) in bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) resulting in clinical signs suggestive of an increased parasympathetic tone. It was hypothesised that BSE in cattle causes changes in the autonomic nervous system; this was tested by comparing HRV indices derived from 1048 electrocardiograms, which were recorded from 51 naturally or experimentally infected cattle with BSE confirmed by postmortem tests, 321 clinical suspect cases or cattle inoculated with potentially infectious tissue without disease confirmation and 78 BSE-free control cattle.
Statistically significant differences were found for low or high frequency power, their normalised values and ratio when the last recording prior to cull or repeated recordings were compared but only between male and female cattle of the three groups and not between groups of the same gender, even though BSE cases of each gender appeared to be more nervous during the recording. The same findings were made for heart rate, deviation from the mean RR interval and vasovagal tonus index when repeated recordings were compared. BSE cases with severe vacuolar changes in the parasympathetic nucleus of the vagus nerve had a significantly lower low:high frequency power ratio but not a lower heart rate than BSE cases with mild vacuolation, whereas severity of vacuolar changes in the solitary tract nucleus or intensity of PrPd accumulation in both nuclei did not appear to have any affect on either index. Abnormalities in the electrocardiogram were detected in 3% of the recordings irrespective of the BSE status; sinus arrhythmia was present in 93% of the remaining recordings.
HRV analysis was not useful to distinguish BSE-positive from BSE-negative cattle grouped by gender, and HRV indices appeared to be mainly influenced by gender. There is agreement with earlier studies that vacuolar changes in the brainstem may be associated with an increased parasympathetic tone in BSE and that abnormalities in an electrocardiogram can be detected in cattle without evidence of heart disease.
PMCID: PMC3169472  PMID: 21787422

Results 1-4 (4)