18 April 1997

MAFF maternal transmission data may extend selective cull

By Shelley Wright

THE selective cull is set to be extended, the NFU believes, after the governments BSE advisory com-mittee concluded a low rate of mat-ernal transmission does take place.

At its meeting on Tuesday, the advisory committee, SEAC, discussed the full results from MAFFs maternal transmission trials, along with analyses of the ministrys BSE records.

From that the committee agreed there was proof of maternal transmission, and that a rate of up to 10% was possible. SEAC member, Jeff Almond told FW there was no way of telling from the data how much was due to transmission of the disease itself and how much was a transfer of genetic susceptibility. The likelihood was that both were happening.

NFU deputy president, Ben Gill, believed it was inevitable that farm ministers would now insist that the selective cull be extended to include some offspring of BSE cases.

Prof Almond said it was not up to SEAC to propose an extension to the cull. The committees conclusions had been passed to ministers and only they could take such decisions. But he said he expected MAFF to make a statement by the end of this week.

On Wednesday, as FW went to Press, a MAFF official said ministers were considering SEACs conclusions on maternal transmission. But she refused to confirm that an extended cull was the likely outcome. Prof Almond said that the full results had shown a transmission rate much the same as the interims, released last August. But he stressed that SEAC did not believe maternal transmission would extend the BSE epidemic.

He was still confident that the predictions of Roy Anderson, Oxford University, that the disease would almost disappear from the UK by 2001, would prove true.

lA total of 1026 cattle have been slaughtered under the slective cull, according to Intervention Board figures for the UK to the end of last week (Apr 11). Another 409 animals were due to be slaughtered this week. Movement restrictions are in place on 3175 cohorts and slaughter notices have been served on 549 of those.