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 disease.
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 these premises."
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 Affairs (DEFRA).
"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
"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
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 scientists.
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 Commission.
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 animals.
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 2005.
DEFRA will be asking the UK Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory
Committee for their comments on this finding at their meeting on
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