Isolation of Prion with BSE Properties from Farmed Goat - Vol. 17 No. 12 - December 2011 - Emerging Infectious Disease journal - CDC
Volume 17, Number 12—December 2011
Isolation of Prion with BSE Properties from Farmed Goat
Suggested citation for this article
AbstractTransmissible spongiform encephalopathies are fatal neurodegenerative diseases that include variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, scrapie in small ruminants, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle. Scrapie is not considered a public health risk, but BSE has been linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Small ruminants are susceptible to BSE, and in 2005 BSE was identified in a farmed goat in France. We confirm another BSE case in a goat in which scrapie was originally diagnosed and retrospectively identified as suspected BSE. The prion strain in this case was further characterized by mouse bioassay after extraction from formaldehyde-fixed brain tissue embedded in paraffin blocks. Our data show that BSE can infect small ruminants under natural conditions and could be misdiagnosed as scrapie. Surveillance should continue so that another outbreak of this zoonotic transmissible spongiform encephalopathy can be prevented and public health safeguarded.
Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) are fatal diseases characterized by neurodegenerative changes in the central nervous system that include vacuolation, gliosis, and accumulation of an abnormal isoform (PrPSc) of a naturally occurring host-encoded protein (PrPC) (1). According to the prion hypothesis, PrPSc is the major or the sole infectious agent (1). Although this hypothesis has not received universal acceptance, PrPSc is ubiquitous in all known naturally occurring TSEs, and its detection is widely used for their diagnosis.
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), a TSE of cattle, was first detected in 1986 (2) and has since been linked with emerging TSEs in other species (3,4) including humans (5,6). Because of its ability to cross species barriers and particularly its zoonotic potential, BSE is considered a public health risk, and extensive measures have been established to detect and eliminate the disease.
Scrapie, a naturally occurring TSE affecting small ruminants, has been known for centuries (7) and is not considered to pose a public health risk (8). Under experimental conditions, however, small ruminants are susceptible to BSE, with pathogenesis and clinical signs that are not readily distinguishable from scrapie (9–12). Additionally, the fact that small ruminants were exposed to BSE-contaminated food before the exclusion of meat and bone meal from ruminant feedstuffs led to the possibility that sheep and goats on commercial farms could be affected by BSE that could be misdiagnosed as scrapie (13,14). The response to this potential risk was the implementation of extensive statutory active surveillance, elimination, and breeding for resistance programs in the European Union (EU).
In 2005, as part of a review of historical TSE-positive cases of sheep and goats in France, a specimen from a goat slaughtered for human consumption in 2002 was reported to be “indistinguishable from a BSE isolate on the basis of all identification criteria available.” (15). In response to this report, 2 retrospective studies were initiated in the United Kingdom to analyze archived samples from goat cases that were initially diagnosed as scrapie (16,17). Because only fixed material was available, both studies had to use differential immunohistochemical analysis (D-IHC), a technique that can discriminate scrapie from experimentally induced BSE in sheep (18). These studies identified a single case, originally diagnosed in 1990 as scrapie, that had a D-IHC signature indistinguishable from BSE (16).
Given the wide phenotypic variance of scrapie in sheep and our limited knowledge of this variance in goats, the D-IHC result on its own was insufficient for an unequivocal diagnosis. In accordance with EU regulation 36/2005 (19), the case was referred to the EU Reference Laboratory Strain Typing Expert Group, which recommended further investigation by bioassay.
Bioassay is conventionally undertaken by using unfixed tissues to prepare inocula. Much historical tissue is available only as formalin fixed or formalin fixed and paraffin wax embedded. TSE infectivity persists in such material but with a lower infectious titer than with unfixed frozen tissue (20). However, the potential effects on biological activity, and therefore strain characterization, of fixation and processing are unknown. Thus, further investigation of this case required an extensive panel of controls. We report the results of the bioassay analysis and confirm the diagnosis of BSE in a goat in the United Kingdom.
Suggested citation for this article: Spiropoulos J, Lockey R, Sallis RE, Terry LA, Thorne L, Holder TM, et al. Isolation of prion with BSE properties from farmed goat. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2011 Dec [date cited]. http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid1712.110333