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ILAR J. 2015;56(1):7-25. doi: 10.1093/ilar/ilv008.

The transmissible spongiform encephalopathies of livestock.

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  • 1Justin J. Greenlee, DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACVP, is a research veterinary medical officer in the Virus and Prion Research Unit of the National Animal Disease Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service in Ames, Iowa. M. Heather West Greenlee, PhD, is an associate professor of biomedical sciences at the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine.


Prion diseases or transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) are fatal protein-misfolding neurodegenerative diseases. TSEs have been described in several species, including bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle, scrapie in sheep and goats, chronic wasting disease (CWD) in cervids, transmissible mink encephalopathy (TME) in mink, and Kuru and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans. These diseases are associated with the accumulation of a protease-resistant, disease-associated isoform of the prion protein (called PrP(Sc)) in the central nervous system and other tissues, depending on the host species. Typically, TSEs are acquired through exposure to infectious material, but inherited and spontaneous TSEs also occur. All TSEs share pathologic features and infectious mechanisms but have distinct differences in transmission and epidemiology due to host factors and strain differences encoded within the structure of the misfolded prion protein. The possibility that BSE can be transmitted to humans as the cause of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease has brought attention to this family of diseases. This review is focused on the TSEs of livestock: bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle and scrapie in sheep and goats.


Bovine spongiform encephalopathy; cattle; goats; prion; protein misfolding; scrapie; sheep; transmissible spongiform encephalopathy

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