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Vet Res. 2008 Jul-Aug;39(4):34. doi: 10.1051/vetres:2008011. Epub 2008 Feb 15.

Approaches to investigating transmission of spongiform encephalopathies in domestic animals using BSE as an example.

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  • 1Pathology Department, Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Woodham Lane, New Haw, Addlestone, Surrey, KT15 3NB, UK.


Bovine spongiform encephalopathy was a novel spongiform encephalopathy, in an hitherto unaffected species, that had characteristics of a point source epidemic, with an agent that could have been incorporated into a wide variety of feedstuffs and iatrogenically administered to naïve populations, and there was early evidence that it was not restricted to bovines. It was vital to establish, albeit experimentally, which other species might be affected, and whether the epidemic could be maintained by natural transmission, if the source was removed. In contrast, scrapie has been endemic throughout Great Britain for centuries, is maintained naturally (even if we don't know exactly how) and has a known host range. The principles, process and integration of evidence from different types of studies, however, are similar for both of these transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) and can be applied to any emerging or suspected spongiform encephalopathy. This review discusses the experimental approaches used to determine TSE transmissibility and infectivity and how they relate to natural disease and control measures.

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