28 January 1999
No evidence of TSE in sheep brains

GOVERNMENT scientists studied brain tissue from almost 3000 sheep randomly selected at abattoirs and – so far – have not found evidence of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy in any.

Sampling took place in the year to August 1998 as part of MAFFs efforts to determine whether BSE had jumped the species barrier to the national sheep flock.

In a parliamentary written answer, junior farm minister Jeff Rooker said: “The preliminary findings are inconclusive, with no cases of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy definitely confirmed.

“Further examination of brains and tonsils collected are expected to commence shortly.”

He said the tests would not differentiate between BSE and scrapie. Other research was under way, transferring material from sheep diagnosed with scrapie into specially bred mice and then observing the characteristics of any disease that developed.

“No cases of BSE have been found in any of the sheep from the national flock tested so far in this assay,” Mr Rooker said.