Scrapie: Research

Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 30th April 2008.

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Photo of David Drew David Drew Labour, Stroud

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research he has commissioned into maternal transfer of scrapie from ewe to lamb.

Photo of Jonathan R Shaw Jonathan R Shaw Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Marine, Landscape and Rural Affairs) and Minister for the South East), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Since 1995, DEFRA (and its predecessor MAFF) has funded seven research projects looking at different aspects of maternal transmission of scrapie in sheep. These projects are:

(i) Project SE1843—Maternal transmission of scrapie in Sheep

(ii) Project SE1856—Investigation of the sources of TSE infection for the lamb in the prenatal and perinatal period

(iii) Project SE1855—Investigation of the risk of transmission of scrapie in milk of sheep,

(iv) Project SE2004—Identification of PrP associated infectivity in blood and milk from sheep infected with TSE, toward a diagnostic test for live animals,

(v) Project SE1834—The role of the pre-implantation embryo in the vertical transmission of natural scrapie infection

(vi) Project SE1814—To determine if scrapie can be transmitted by transfer of embryos from ewes infected with scrapie to uninfected ewes,

(vii) Project SE1823—Investigation of the role of the embryo in maternal transmission of scrapie in sheep.

The first two projects are trying to determine which tissues from scrapie-infected ewes carry infectivity and therefore may infect lambs. Different tissues and fluids such as placenta, blood, urine and faeces are being examined for the presence of PrPSc, the protein associated with scrapie. The effect of the PrP genotype of the ewe and the lamb and the effect of removing the placenta immediately after birth are also being examined as possible factors in maternal transmission. The next two projects are looking at milk from scrapie-infected ewes and determining if milk contains scrapie infectivity or PrPSc, the protein associated with scrapie. Recent results from project SE1855 have shown that milk can carry scrapie infectivity (BMC Vet Res. 2008 Apr 8;4(1):14).

The last three projects have looked at whether embryos, collected from a scrapie infected ewe, give rise to infected lambs when transplanted into scrapie free ewes. The most recent of these projects, SE1834, found that transplanted embryos do not appear to become infected.

The total cost of these seven projects is £5,491,054.

More details of these projects and other DEFRA research projects can be found on the science and research pages of the DEFRA website.

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