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1.  Scrapie prevalence in sheep of susceptible genotype is declining in a population subject to breeding for resistance 
Susceptibility of sheep to scrapie infection is known to be modulated by the PrP genotype of the animal. In the Netherlands an ambitious scrapie control programme was started in 1998, based on genetic selection of animals for breeding. From 2002 onwards EU regulations required intensive active scrapie surveillance as well as certain control measures in affected flocks.
Here we analyze the data on genotype frequencies and scrapie prevalence in the Dutch sheep population obtained from both surveillance and affected flocks, to identify temporal trends. We also estimate the genotype-specific relative risks to become a detected scrapie case.
We find that the breeding programme has produced a steady increase in the level of genetic scrapie resistance in the Dutch sheep population. We also find that a significant decline in the prevalence of scrapie in tested animals has occurred a number of years after the start of the breeding programme. Most importantly, the estimated scrapie prevalence level per head of susceptible genotype is also declining significantly, indicating that selective breeding causes a population effect.
The Dutch scrapie control programme has produced a steady rise in genetic resistance levels in recent years. A recent decline in the scrapie prevalence per tested sheep of susceptible prion protein genotype indicates that selective breeding causes the desired population effect.
PMCID: PMC2883980  PMID: 20470415
2.  Eradication of scrapie with selective breeding: are we nearly there? 
Following EU decision 2003/100/EC Member States have recently implemented sheep breeding programmes to reduce the prevalence of sheep with TSE susceptible prion genotypes. The present paper investigates the progress of the breeding programme in the Netherlands. The PrP genotype frequencies were monitored through time using two sets of random samples: one set covers the years 2005 to 2008 and is taken from national surveillance programme; the other is taken from 168 random sheep farms in 2007. The data reveal that although the level of compliance to the breeding programme has been high, the frequency of susceptible genotypes varies substantially between farms. The 168 sheep farms are a subset of 689 farms participating in a postal survey inquiring about management and breeding strategies. This survey aimed to identify how much these strategies varied between farms, in order to inform assessment of the expected future progress towards eradication of classical scrapie.
On the one hand, we found that compliance to the national breeding program has been high, and the frequency of resistant genotypes is expected to increase further in the next few years. On the other hand, we observed a large variation in prevalence of the scrapie resistant PrP genotype ARR between farms, implicating a large variation of genetic resistance between farms. Substantial between-flock differences in management and breeding strategies were found in the postal survey, suggesting considerable variation in risk of scrapie transmission between farms.
Our results show that although there has been a good progress in the breeding for scrapie resistance and the average farm-level scrapie susceptibility in the Netherlands has been significantly reduced, still a considerable proportion of farms contain high frequencies of susceptible genotypes in their sheep population. Since 2007 the breeding for genetic resistance is voluntarily again, and participation to selective breeding can decrease as a result of this. This, together with the patterns of direct and indirect contact between sheep farms, might present a challenge of the aim of scrapie eradication. Communication to sheep owners of the effect of the breeding programme thus far, and of the prospects for classical scrapie eradication in The Netherlands might be essential for obtaining useful levels of participation to the voluntary continuation of the breeding programme.
PMCID: PMC2873516  PMID: 20441587
3.  Rapid and discriminatory diagnosis of scrapie and BSE in retro-pharyngeal lymph nodes of sheep 
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.
PMCID: PMC1544330  PMID: 16764717

Results 1-3 (3)