Cheap BSE screening for whole national flock

23 October 1998

Cheap BSE screening for whole national flock

SCIENTISTS have developed a method for screening the national flock of 42 million sheep for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

Researchers at St Marys Hospital, London, working with the Central Veterinary Laboratory, Weybridge, Surrey, have just published the results of a preliminary survey.

Their work demonstrates that “molecular screening” for BSE in sheep should only cost a few pounds per sheep.

Currently, scientists use a bioassay, which involves inserting suspected infectious tissue into the brains of laboratory mice and observing them. But it takes two years for the mice to succumb to the disease at a cost of £30,000 per sheep.

The new method is based on a type of test called Western Blot analysis, which smashes up the abnormal prion protein into fragments and detects different strains by the different patterns of fragments.

Another method with potential for mass screening was announced by researchers at the University of California recently.

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