13 June 1997

Scrapie control in sight

SCRAPIE incidence in the national flock could be reduced to a fraction of its current level and as for the future – who knows.

That is the prediction of Mike Dawson, of MAFFs Central Veterinary Laboratory, who is studying scrapie in several flocks in England and Wales.

He anticipates increased interest in the scrapie gene test following MAFFs announcement that it intends to reinforce the existing legal requirement to notify all scrapie cases. It will also pay compensation to encourage reporting of the disease (see News).

The blood test – available to most sheep breeds – determines scrapie resistance or susceptibility. "It is used to help farmers reduce the number of scrapie susceptible sheep in their flocks," says Mr Dawson.

He reports a substantial increase in uptake of the scrapie gene test since its price was reduced from £70 a blood sample to £40 this April.

CVL is currently developing a new one codon test that will be available at a price competitive to that offered by US laboratories – at about £20 a blood sample. "It will be ready in a matter of months," says Mr Dawson.

"This should lead to a significant reduction in the number of scrapie cases in the national flock and Im confident we could in future reduce scrapie levels to a fraction of what they are."

&#8226 So far so good for the Wensleydale breed and scrapie. The breed society says the small sample of tests taken to date indicate the breed has an exceptional resistance to scrapie.