BSE and variant CJD

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.322.7301.1544/a (Published 23 June 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:1544

Assumption that BSE originated from scrapie in sheep led to misjudgment

  1. M A Ferguson-Smith (maf12@mole.bio.cam.ac.uk), emeritus professor of pathology
  1. Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine, Cambridge University, Cambridge CB3 0ES
  2. 10 Antrim Grove, London NW3 4XR

    EDITOR—In espousing the scrapie origin of bovine spongiform encephalopathy Brown fails to explain adequately why scrapie outside Britain has not led to bovine spongiform encephalopathy.1

    Does Brown believe that scrapie “has mysteriously chosen the United Kingdom as its only geographical site and the early 1980s as its only historical occurrence” to appear in cattle? He explains that the comparatively high incidence of scrapie in sheep in the United Kingdom and the changes in rendering were responsible. This seems implausible, for reasons set out in the report of the BSE [bovine spongiform encephalopathy] inquiry.2

    I am not aware of comparative data on the incidence of scrapie in the United Kingdom and abroad. Similar changes in rendering were occurring elsewhere, and no rendering process either before or since the emergence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy has been capable of completely inactivating scrapie.

    The BSE …

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