18 April 2000
Pasture linked to BSE transmission

INFECTED pasture could help transmit of BSE-type diseases, claims an expert on animal health.

Professor Chris Bostock, director of Institute for Animal Health, believes that horizontal transmission – from one animal to another – through pasture is likely.

Although he has no direct evidence for this, Prof Bostock says it is feasible that the BSE-type disease scrapie which affects sheep could spread in this way.

Prof Bostock told the BBC Radio 4 Farming Today programme that pasture may become contaminated by infected tissue, such as the placenta at lambing time.

“Evidence of the incidence of scrapie in flocks suggests that there must be some form of horizontal transmission through an infected environment,” he said.

Prof Bostock recounted anecdotal evidence of cases of scrapie where all animals were removed and the land and premises sterilised.

When these areas were restocked years later, it was reported that sheep went down with the disease, suggesting they caught scrapie from long-persisting infections in the land.

At the weekend, French agriculture minister Jean Glavany claimed that in addition to contaminated feed or maternal transmission there was a third “mystery” route for transmission of BSE.

Mr Glavany has announced a vast programme to trace the origins of BSE in France, something he described as the most important programme ever introduced in the EU.