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Scrapie in Britain during the BSE years


The experimental transmission of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) to sheep1 raised the possibility that some sheep in the United Kingdom could have been infected during the 1980s after exposure to BSE-contaminated feed. In contrast to new diseases that have appeared in a number of feline species and wild ungulates2, the symptoms of BSE in sheep are very similar to another transmissible spongiform encephalopathy called scrapie, which has been endemic in Britain for over 200 years. Although so far no cases of BSE in sheep have been found, these may have been misdiagnosed as scrapie. Here we present data describing the historical changes in scrapie incidence3, and find no evidence for a peak in scrapie incidence before, during or after the BSE outbreak, making it unlikely that a substantial epidemic of BSE has occurred in the sheep population.

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Figure 1: Analysis of results from scrapie survey among British farmers.


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Correspondence to Mike B. Gravenor.

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Gravenor, M., Cox, D., Hoinville, L. et al. Scrapie in Britain during the BSE years . Nature 406, 584–585 (2000).

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