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1.  The evaluation of exposure risks for natural transmission of scrapie within an infected flock 
Background
Although the epidemiology of scrapie has been broadly understood for many years, attempts to introduce voluntary or compulsory controls to eradicate the disease have frequently failed. Lack of precision in defining the risk factors on farm has been one of the challenges to designing control strategies. This study attempted to define which parts of the annual flock management cycle represented the greatest risk of infection to naive lambs exposed to the farm environment at different times.
Results
In VRQ/VRQ lambs exposed to infected sheep at pasture or during lambing, and exposed to the buildings in which lambing took place, the attack rate was high and survival times were short. Where exposure was to pasture alone the number of sheep affected in each experimental group was reduced, and survival times were longer and related to length of exposure.
Conclusion
At the flock level, eradication and control strategies for scrapie must take into account the need to decontaminate buildings used for lambing, and to reduce (or prevent) the exposure of lambs to infected sheep, especially in the later stages of incubation, and at lambing. The potential for environmental contamination from pasture should also be considered. Genotype selection may still prove to be the only viable tool to prevent infection from contaminated pasture, reduce environmental contamination and limit direct transmission from sheep to sheep.
doi:10.1186/1746-6148-5-38
PMCID: PMC2768688  PMID: 19818127
2.  Atypical scrapie in sheep from a UK research flock which is free from classical scrapie 
Background
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1186/1746-6148-5-8
PMCID: PMC2649067  PMID: 19208228
3.  Pruritus is a common feature in sheep infected with the BSE agent 
Background
The variability in the clinical or pathological presentation of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) in sheep, such as scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), has been attributed to prion protein genotype, strain, breed, clinical duration, dose, route and type of inoculum and the age at infection. The study aimed to describe the clinical signs in sheep infected with the BSE agent throughout its clinical course to determine whether the clinical signs were as variable as described for classical scrapie in sheep. The clinical signs were compared to BSE-negative sheep to assess if disease-specific clinical markers exist.
Results
Forty-seven (34%) of 139 sheep, which comprised 123 challenged sheep and 16 undosed controls, were positive for BSE. Affected sheep belonged to five different breeds and three different genotypes (ARQ/ARQ, VRQ/VRQ and AHQ/AHQ). None of the controls or BSE exposed sheep with ARR alleles were positive. Pruritus was present in 41 (87%) BSE positive sheep; the remaining six were judged to be pre-clinically infected. Testing of the response to scratching along the dorsum of a sheep proved to be a good indicator of clinical disease with a test sensitivity of 85% and specificity of 98% and usually coincided with weight loss. Clinical signs that were displayed significantly earlier in BSE positive cases compared to negative cases were behavioural changes, pruritic behaviour, a positive scratch test, alopecia, skin lesions, teeth grinding, tremor, ataxia, loss of weight and loss of body condition. The frequency and severity of each specific clinical sign usually increased with the progression of disease over a period of 16–20 weeks.
Conclusion
Our results suggest that BSE in sheep presents with relatively uniform clinical signs, with pruritus of increased severity and abnormalities in behaviour or movement as the disease progressed. Based on the studied sheep, these clinical features appear to be independent of breed, affected genotype, dose, route of inoculation and whether BSE was passed into sheep from cattle or from other sheep, suggesting that the clinical phenotype of BSE is influenced by the TSE strain more than by other factors. The clinical phenotype of BSE in the genotypes and breed studied was indistinguishable from that described for classical scrapie cases.
doi:10.1186/1746-6148-4-16
PMCID: PMC2390527  PMID: 18445253
4.  Clinical findings in two cases of atypical scrapie in sheep: a case report 
Background
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.
Case presentation
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1186/1746-6148-3-2
PMCID: PMC1810526  PMID: 17298670

Results 1-4 (4)