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Prion. 2012 Nov-Dec;6(5):425-9. doi: 10.4161/pri.22057. Epub 2012 Sep 6.

Naturally prion resistant mammals: a utopia?

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CIC bioGUNE, Parque tecnológico de Bizkaia, Derio, Spain.


Each known abnormal prion protein (PrP (Sc) ) is considered to have a specific range and therefore the ability to infect some species and not others. Consequently, some species have been assumed to be prion disease resistant as no successful natural or experimental challenge infections have been reported. This assumption suggested that, independent of the virulence of the PrP (Sc) strain, normal prion protein (PrP (C) ) from these 'resistant' species could not be induced to misfold. Numerous in vitro and in vivo studies trying to corroborate the unique properties of PrP (Sc) have been undertaken. The results presented in the article "Rabbits are not resistant to prion infection" demonstrated that normal rabbit PrP (C) , which was considered to be resistant to prion disease, can be misfolded to PrP (Sc) and subsequently used to infect and transmit a standard prion disease to leporids. Using the concept of species resistance to prion disease, we will discuss the mistake of attributing species specific prion disease resistance based purely on the absence of natural cases and incomplete in vivo challenges. The BSE epidemic was partially due to an underestimation of species barriers. To repeat this error would be unacceptable, especially if present knowledge and techniques can show a theoretical risk. Now that the myth of prion disease resistance has been refuted it is time to re-evaluate, using the new powerful tools available in modern prion laboratories, whether any other species could be at risk.

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