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French cattle to be screened for BSE

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 24 June 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:1692
  1. Alexander Dorozynski
  1. Paris

    The French government has launched a programme to screen the country's cows for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

    Some 48 000 tests will be carried out with the Swiss test kit “Prionics” on animals more than 2 years old either found dead for no known reason or after accidental death. If an animal is found to be infected, its herd will be destroyed and the animals incinerated.

    About 40 000 of the tests will be carried out on brain samples collected in Brittany, lower Normandy, and along the Loire valley, the regions where 80% of known BSE cases in France are concentrated.

    Another 8000 will be scattered throughout the rest of the country. Two other tests will be used to double check the results: the Irish “Enfer” test and a test designed by researchers at France's Department for Atomic Energy and marketed by the American firm Biorad.

    Switzerland is the only country where a similar screening programme has been carried out, showing that BSE infection is present in more than two animals per 1000. The Swiss Federal Veterinary Office reported a BSE infection incidence of 0.5% among animals destined for the slaughterhouse.

    The French screening programme is directed by Professor Marc Girard, head of the European Research Centre in Virology and Immunology, in Lyons. It will be completed before the end of the year at an estimated cost of Fr271m (£26m; $39m).

    Last week France's Ministry of Agriculture reported two cases of BSE. This brings to 20 the number of infections identified this year (100 since the beginning of the epidemic in 1991).

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