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A reply from the European Livestock Alliance to the letter published in last week's Farmers Weekly from Mr J Scudamore

"There is scientific basis to re-evaluate the scrapie plan and find consensus"

Points to consider:

  • No route of natural infection has ever been identified. Any comments to the contrary are based on speculation. Similarly, there has been no conclusive evidence for maternal transmission. True transmission has only been achieved by intracerebral innoculation or oral dosing of sheep, goats, mice and hamsters but not cats or mink.

  • Despite the involvement of prion protein expression, what makes sheep susceptible to scrapie remains completely unknown.

  • Scientific Steering Committee: If only ARR/ARR sheep were considered for commercial use, virtually no information exists on how breeding for this allele might affect sheep either in respect of management (hardiness, resistance to harsh weather conditions, etc.) or susceptibility to other diseases. Scrapie resistant animals could, for example, be less healthy in other respects or could be more susceptible to other diseases or have a lower weight at slaughter, etc. In addition, it has been suggested that the development of an entire national flock of ARR/ARR genotype (the most resistant known) could result in inadvertent selection of rare scrapie strains able to cause disease in this genotype

  • Breeding for TSE resistant animals gives a false sense of safety. F.Houston et al. proved that 3 out of 19 ARR ARR sheep showed clinical symptoms of BSE. Conclusion of the authors: Although the relevance of this finding to sheep exposed to natural infection remains to be determined, it may have important implications for disease eradication strategies. May 30, 2003

  • The AFSSA (Agence Francaise de securite sanitaire des Aliments) reports 19 scrapie cases in 2003, 3 atypical cases of scrapie have been detected in ewes aged from 5 years to 17 years of age. Genotyping of the animals for the gene coding for the prion protein has shown that these animals are homozygous for the allele ARR, associated with the highest resistance to the development of clinical signs of scrapie.

    ELA (European Livestock Alliance)

    Sabine Zentis (Germany): CVLonghorns@aol.com

    Betty Stikkers (The Netherlands): betty.stikkers@ela-europe.org