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From: TSS ()
Subject: Atypical scrapie found in sheep flock considered to be TSE-free (DEFRA)
Date: November 17, 2006 at 7:54 am PST


Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR
Out of hours telephone 020 7270 8960 Ref: 487/06
Date: 14 November 2006

Atypical scrapie found in sheep flock considered to be TSE-free

The Veterinary Laboratories Agency has informed Defra that it has detected atypical scrapie in a sheep from a flock considered to be free of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs).

For research purposes, Defra maintains a flock of sheep that are believed to be free of TSEs as all the founder animals in the flock were imported from New Zealand, a country considered to be free of TSEs. The flock is managed under strict bio-security conditions to ensure that the animals do not come into contact with other sheep.

All animals that die or are culled in the flock are routinely tested for the presence of TSEs and as result of this routine testing one of the animals has tested positive for atypical scrapie.

As the origin of the atypical scrapie in this case is not clear, this finding will now be subjected to independent scientific investigation, which will include ensuring that the bio-security on the farm was not compromised and that there was no possibility of cross contamination of the sample. Defra's Chief Scientific Adviser, Howard Dalton will be engaged in this investigation and will scrutinise the results. However, it is possible that the origin of atypical scrapie in this case will never be clear.

Atypical scrapie has been discussed by the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) Sheep Subgroup in January this year where they concluded:-

There is no evidence of a risk to human health, but a theoretical risk cannot be excluded.

We are liaising with the New Zealand authorities and with research laboratories who have received animals from this flock.

Notes to editors
• More information about atypical scrapie can be found at

• A copy of the full SEAC sheep subgroup position statement can be found at (on SEAC website)

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Page published: 14 November 2006


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