DEFRA HAS confirmed the presence of an atypical form of scrapie in sheep but said it bears no resemblance to BSE. 

The department reported in Sept 2003 that there was the possibility of an atypical case of scrapie. 

Further investigations have found the atypical strain in another 83 sheep out of 110,000 tested. 

But tests have shown that the strain bears no similarity to BSE in sheep that were deliberately infected with the disease. 

Despite confirmation of the situation DEFRA has insisted that the National Scrapie Plan will continue.

The Plan, which has been running for three years, breeds out scrapie susceptible genes in the national flock. 

None of the 83 sheep found to be infected with the atypical strain were of the ARR genotype previously found to be resistant to recognised forms of scrapie. 

Scientists at the Veterinary Laboratory Agency believe this indicates that the ARR genotype may also be resistant to the atypical strain. 

Scrapie is a fatal neurological sheep disease belonging to a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. 

This group includes BSE in cattle and CJD in humans. It has been present in the national flock for over 250 years but it is not considered to be transmissible to humans.