30 November 2001

UK flock still at BSE risk

THE scientist at the centre of the governments botched BSE-in-sheep tests insists that the UK sheep flock could still be hit by an epidemic of the disease.

Chris Bostock, director of the Institute of Animal Health, told farmers weekly: "An epidemic would not necessarily have happened by now. If there is significant horizontal transmission, it is not unreasonable to say that an epidemic could happen."

Prof Bostocks comments came after research by the institute and Oxford University suggested that up to 1500 sheep could have had BSE in 1990. The study, published in the journal Science last Fri, Nov 23, predicted that there could be up to 20 BSE cases in sheep now.

A large epidemic could occur if BSE passes from sheep to sheep as happens with scrapie, said the study. Prof Bostock said it had used "hard bits of evidence to estimate what may have been an epidemic of BSE in sheep".

But farmers and vets have attacked the findings as flawed. "You can make a model show anything," said National Sheep Association chairman David Smith. &#42