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1.  Relationship between clinical signs and postmortem test status in cattle experimentally infected with the bovine spongiform encephalopathy agent 
Background
Various clinical protocols have been developed to aid in the clinical diagnosis of classical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), which is confirmed by postmortem examinations based on vacuolation and accumulation of disease-associated prion protein (PrPd) in the brain. The present study investigated the occurrence and progression of sixty selected clinical signs and behaviour combinations in 513 experimentally exposed cattle subsequently categorised postmortem as confirmed or unconfirmed BSE cases. Appropriate undosed or saline inoculated controls were examined similarly and the data analysed to explore the possible occurrence of BSE-specific clinical expression in animals unconfirmed by postmortem examinations.
Results
Based on the display of selected behavioural, sensory and locomotor changes, 20 (67%) orally dosed and 17 (77%) intracerebrally inoculated pathologically confirmed BSE cases and 21 (13%) orally dosed and 18 (6%) intracerebrally inoculated but unconfirmed cases were considered clinical BSE suspects. None of 103 controls showed significant signs and were all negative on diagnostic postmortem examinations. Signs indicative of BSE suspects, particularly over-reactivity and ataxia, were more frequently displayed in confirmed cases with vacuolar changes in the brain. The display of several BSE-associated signs over time, including repeated startle responses and nervousness, was significantly more frequent in confirmed BSE cases compared to controls, but these two signs were also significantly more frequent in orally dosed cattle unconfirmed by postmortem examinations.
Conclusions
The findings confirm that in experimentally infected cattle clinical abnormalities indicative of BSE are accompanied by vacuolar changes and PrPd accumulation in the brainstem. The presence of more frequently expressed signs in cases with vacuolar changes is consistent with this pathology representing a more advanced stage of disease. That BSE-like signs or sign combinations occur in inoculated animals that were not confirmed as BSE cases by postmortem examinations requires further study to investigate the potential causal relationship with prion disease.
doi:10.1186/1746-6148-6-53
PMCID: PMC3019182  PMID: 21143919
2.  Monitoring of clinical signs in goats with transmissible spongiform encephalopathies 
Background
As there is limited information about the clinical signs of BSE and scrapie in goats, studies were conducted to describe the clinical progression of scrapie and BSE in goats and to evaluate a short clinical protocol for its use in detecting scrapie-affected goats in two herds with previously confirmed scrapie cases. Clinical assessments were carried out in five goats intracerebrally infected with the BSE agent as well as five reported scrapie suspects and 346 goats subject to cull from the two herds, 24 of which were retained for further monitoring. The brain and selected lymphoid tissue were examined by postmortem tests for disease confirmation.
Results
The sensitivity and specificity of the short clinical protocol in detecting a scrapie case in the scrapie-affected herds was 3.9% and 99.6%, respectively, based on the presence of tremor, positive scratch test, extensive hair loss, ataxia and absent menace response. All BSE- and scrapie-affected goats displayed abnormalities in sensation (over-reactivity to external stimuli, startle responses, pruritus, absent menace response) and movement (ataxia, tremor, postural deficits) at an advanced clinical stage but the first detectable sign associated with scrapie or BSE could vary between animals. Signs of pruritus were not always present despite similar prion protein genotypes. Clinical signs of scrapie were also displayed by two scrapie cases that presented with detectable disease-associated prion protein only in lymphoid tissues.
Conclusions
BSE and scrapie may present as pruritic and non-pruritic forms in goats. Signs assessed for the clinical diagnosis of scrapie or BSE in goats should include postural and gait abnormalities, pruritus and visual impairment. However, many scrapie cases will be missed if detection is solely based on the display of clinical signs. PrPd accumulation in the brain appeared to be related to the severity of clinical disease but not to the display of individual neurological signs.
doi:10.1186/1746-6148-6-13
PMCID: PMC2875668  PMID: 20202205
3.  Transmissibility studies of vacuolar changes in the rostral colliculus of pigs 
Background
Histopathological examinations of brains from healthy pigs have revealed localised vacuolar changes, predominantly in the rostral colliculus, that are similar to the neuropil vacuolation featured in the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies and have been described in pigs challenged parenterally with the agent causing bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Feedstuff containing BSE-contaminated meat and bone meal (MBM) may have been fed to pigs prior to the ban of mammalian MBM in feed of farmed livestock in the United Kingdom in 1996, but there is no evidence of the natural occurrence of a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) in the domestic pig. Furthermore, experimental transmission of BSE to pigs by the oral route has been unsuccessful. A study was conducted to investigate whether the localised vacuolar changes in the porcine brain were associated with a transmissible aetiology and therefore biologically significant. Two groups of ten pigs were inoculated parenterally with vacuolated rostral colliculus from healthy pigs either born before 1996 or born after 1996. Controls included ten pigs similarly inoculated with rostral colliculus from New Zealand-derived pigs and nine pigs inoculated with a bovine BSE brain homogenate.
Results
None of the pigs inoculated with rostral colliculus developed a TSE-like neurological disease up to five years post inoculation when the study was terminated, and disease-associated prion protein, PrPd, was not detected in the brains of these pigs. By contrast, eight of nine BSE-inoculated pigs developed neurological signs, two of which had detectable PrPd by postmortem tests. No significant histopathological changes were detected to account for the clinical signs in the PrPd-negative, BSE-inoculated pigs.
Conclusion
The findings in this study suggest that vacuolation in the porcine rostral colliculus is not caused by a transmissible agent and is probably a clinically insignificant change. The presence of neurological signs in pigs inoculated with BSE without detectable PrPd raises the possibility that the BSE agent may produce a prion disease in pigs that remains undetected by the current postmortem tests.
doi:10.1186/1746-6148-5-35
PMCID: PMC2761866  PMID: 19765298
4.  Different prion disease phenotypes result from inoculation of cattle with two temporally separated sources of sheep scrapie from Great Britain 
Background
Given the theoretical proposal that bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) could have originated from sheep scrapie, this study investigated the pathogenicity for cattle, by intracerebral (i.c.) inoculation, of two pools of scrapie agents sourced in Great Britain before and during the BSE epidemic.
Two groups of ten cattle were each inoculated with pools of brain material from sheep scrapie cases collected prior to 1975 and after 1990. Control groups comprised five cattle inoculated with sheep brain free from scrapie, five cattle inoculated with saline, and for comparison with BSE, naturally infected cattle and cattle i.c. inoculated with BSE brainstem homogenate from a parallel study. Phenotypic characterisation of the disease forms transmitted to cattle was conducted by morphological, immunohistochemical, biochemical and biological methods.
Results
Disease occurred in 16 cattle, nine inoculated with the pre-1975 inoculum and seven inoculated with the post-1990 inoculum, with four cattle still alive at 83 months post challenge (as at June 2006). The different inocula produced predominantly two different disease phenotypes as determined by histopathological, immunohistochemical and Western immunoblotting methods and biological characterisation on transmission to mice, neither of which was identical to BSE. Whilst the disease presentation was uniform in all scrapie-affected cattle of the pre-1975 group, the post-1990 inoculum produced a more variable disease, with two animals sharing immunohistochemical and molecular profile characteristics with animals in the pre-1975 group.
Conclusion
The study has demonstrated that cattle inoculated with different pooled scrapie sources can develop different prion disease phenotypes, which were not consistent with the phenotype of BSE of cattle and whose isolates did not have the strain typing characteristics of the BSE agent on transmission to mice.
doi:10.1186/1746-6148-2-31
PMCID: PMC1636635  PMID: 17044917

Results 1-4 (4)