BSE and vCJD: Their biology and management
BSE and vCJD: Their biology and management

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BSE and vCJD: Their biology and management

1.4 TSEs and non-human animals

Several TSEs of non-human animals were also known before the recognition of BSE and others have come to light subsequently. The most significant of the former is scrapie, a disease of sheep that has been known for over 200 years. Its symptoms include irritability, excitability, restlessness, scratching, biting, rubbing of the skin (hence its name), loss of wool, weight loss, weakness of the hindquarters and sometimes impaired vision. Some breeds are relatively resistant to the disease (e.g. Scottish Blackface) and others are much more susceptible (e.g. Herdwick, Suffolk), suggesting a genetic component. The export of sheep from Britain in the 19th century is thought to have caused scrapie to spread to many other countries. However, strict quarantine procedures seem to have prevented the disease reaching Australia and New Zealand. Although some people believe that scrapie may be becoming more prevalent in the UK, the statistics kept on the disease have generally been so poor that it is impossible to be sure. It is likely that several distinct strains of scrapie exist among sheep.

Transmissible mink encephalopathy (TME) is a disease first reported from a Wisconsin mink farm in 1947, but subsequently found in Canada and Finland as well. Although TME is quite rare, all the mink on a farm are usually affected in any particular outbreak. This suggests that the disease is caused by eating infected sheep or cattle carcases, although the prevalence of fighting and cannibalism among young mink has also been implicated.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a TSE of mule deer and elk discovered more recently in North America. Feline spongiform encephalopathy (FSE), affecting domestic cats, and the rather sweepingly named zoological spongiform encephalopathy, affecting a range of animals kept in zoos (e.g. antelopes such as eland, nyala, Arabian oryx, greater kudu, gemsbok; cats such as cheetah, puma, ocelot; and possibly ostrich), are both thought to have the same cause as BSE in cattle.

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