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Rev Sci Tech. 2003 Apr;22(1):145-56.

Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in non-domestic animals: origin, transmission and risk factors.

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Department of Veterinary Sciences, University of Wyoming, College of Agriculture, 1174 Snowy Range Road, Laramie, Wyoming 82070, United States of America.


The transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), are serious diseases of domestic animals. Although not as significant in terms of numbers of animals affected or geographical distribution, TSEs also affect non-domestic animals. Transmissible mink encephalopathy (TME) was the first TSE to be identified in non-domestic animals. This disease of captive mink (Mustela vison) is very rare and is associated with exposure through feed contaminated by a TSE agent. The second TSE to be identified in non-domestic animals was chronic wasting disease (CWD) of deer and elk. This disease is not known to be associated with feedstuffs contaminated with the agent of CWD, but the natural route of exposure appears to be oral, possibly through direct interaction between animals or through environmental contamination. Over the last five years, the known distribution of CWD across North America has expanded, increasing concerns over the impact of this disease on populations of free-ranging cervids and the viability of game farming industries. Concurrent with the epidemic of BSE, a variety of non-domestic ruminants and felid species were also affected in the United Kingdom, presumably through exposure to the agent in contaminated feed. These examples illustrate that when non-domestic animals are held in captivity, they depend upon feeds supplied by their caretakers and may show degrees of susceptibility to infectious agents in feeds which vary from those of domestic species. Although humans have less influence over exposure of free-ranging species to infectious agents, monitoring these populations for diseases may be important for managing the health of these animals. It is important to institute or continue surveillance for an entire range of infectious diseases, including TSEs, in free-ranging and captive non-domestic species. Study of diseases in these species may provide important information about infectious agents of concern for domestic animals and humans.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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