LONDON, UK, February 9, 2005 (ENS): A goat in Scotland, diagnosed
as having the fatal brain disease scrapie in 1990, may
instead have had bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE),
or mad cow disease, UK government officials said Tuesday.
The finding means that BSE may have been widespread
in goats in the past, and may be present in goats today.
Scientists at the UK Veterinary Laboratories Agency
found the BSE infected goat sample during expanded testing
following last month's discovery of BSE in a goat from
France, the first goat known to have been infected with
The Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) had been checking
to determine whether methods developed to discriminate
between scrapie and BSE in sheep could also differentiate
these diseases in a goat.
Tests done with more sensitive methods have found the
Scottish sample had traits similar to samples from goats
experimentally infected with BSE, the lab said.
The goat appears to have originated from premises in
Scotland, said the Department for the Environment, Food
And Rural Affairs. "Investigations have revealed
that the original keeper is no longer in business at
Researchers from the VLA have been asked to carry out
tests to follow up these initial findings. The single
result, using just one test method, is insufficient
to confirm that the goat had BSE, and further rapid
molecular methods to discriminate BSE and scrapie cannot
be applied because no frozen tissues are available.
Further tests will now be carried out, but this will
take one to two years, at the earliest, to complete,
lab officials say.
"It is important to put this initial finding into
context, said Debby Reynolds, chief veterinary officer
for the Department for The Environment, Food And Rural
"It dates back to 1990 which was at the height
of the BSE outbreak in cattle and before the reinforced
feed ban was introduced in 1996," she said. "This
means that there is a distinct possibility that the
animal, if infected with BSE, was exposed to contaminated
"In light of the recent case of BSE in a goat
from France, the European Commission says it is important
to perform increased surveillance on goats on a European-wide
basis to establish the current incidence of TSEs in
the goat population. In line with this, DEFRA will be
stepping up its TSE surveillance program for goats."
Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease affecting
the central nervous system of sheep and goats. It is
among a number of diseases classified as transmissible
spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) characterized by a
degeneration of brain tissue giving a sponge-like appearance.
These TSEs spread from one animal to another by consumption
of feed that has been contaminated by animal protein,
such as meat and bone meal, containing nervous system
tissue from an infected animal.
TSEs, such as scrapie, mad cow disease and its human
form, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), are
spread by prions - abnormally shaped proteins that originate
as regular components of neurological tissues in animals
- they are not cellular organisms or viruses.
A suspected case of BSE in a goat slaughtered in France
in 2002 was confirmed January 28 by a panel of European
The goat was slaughtered in France in October 2002,
but results are only now becoming available because
extensive tests were been carried out, including the
mouse bioassay which takes two years to complete, European
Commission officials said.
There is minimal risk to public health as the goat
in question and its entire herd were disposed of and
did not enter the food or feed chain. The case was detected
as part of the EU wide surveillance program designed
to detect suspicious TSE strains in goats and sheep.
Although this is the first time that BSE has been found
in a goat under natural conditions, precautionary measures
to protect consumers from this eventuality have been
applied in the EU for several years, said the European
Markos Kyprianou, EU Commissioner responsible for Health
and Consumer Protection, said, "I want to reassure
consumers that existing safety measures in the EU offer
a very high level of protection."
"This case was discovered thanks to the EU testing
system in place in France," Kyprianou said. "The
testing program has shown us that there is a very low
incidence rate of TSEs in goats and allowed us to detect
suspect animals so that they can be taken out of the
food chain, as was done with this goat and its entire
herd. I am proposing to extend testing further to determine
whether this is an isolated incident."
The Commission is proposing increased testing for BSE
among goats for at least six months - 200,000 tests
of healthy goats in the EU - to determine if this is
an isolated incident.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has advised
that based on current scientific knowledge, goat milk
and derived products are unlikely to present any risk
of TSE contamination if the milk comes from healthy
The European Commission has asked EFSA to carry out
a quantitative risk assessment for goat meat and goat
meat products, which is expected to be ready by July
DEFRA will be asking the UK Spongiform Encephalopathy
Advisory Committee for their comments on this finding
at their meeting on March 3.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All