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From: TSS (
Date: January 27, 2005 at 12:38 pm PST

In Reply to: Re: 1 in 2 CHANCE OF GETTING BSE AKA MAD COW BY THE ORAL ROUTE (PRIMATE STUDY) posted by TSS on January 27, 2005 at 12:22 pm:

Published online before print March 20, 2001, 10.1073/pnas.041490898
Adaptation of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy agent to primates and comparison with Creutzfeldt- Jakob disease: Implications for human health
Corinne Ida Lasmézas*,dagger, Jean-Guy Fournier*, Virginie Nouvel*, Hermann Boe*, Domíníque Marcé*, François Lamoury*, Nicolas KoppDagger , Jean-Jacques Hauw§, James Ironside¶, Moira Bruce||, Dominique Dormont*, and Jean-Philippe Deslys*



One aim of this study was to determine the risk of secondary transmission to humans of vCJD, which is caused not by a primarily human strain of TSE agent but by the BSE strain having passed the species barrier to humans. This risk is tightly linked to the capacity of the BSE agent to adapt to primates and harbor enhanced virulence (i.e., induce disease after a short incubation period and provoke disease even if highly diluted) and to its pathogenicity after inoculation by the peripheral route. With respect to the latter, there are huge variations between different TSE agent strains and hosts. For example, the BSE agent is pathogenic to pigs after i.c. inoculation but not after oral administration (23). Thus, we wanted to know to what extent the BSE/vCJD agent is pathogenic to humans by the i.c. and i.v. routes. To achieve this, we used the macaque model. To monitor the evolution of the BSE agent in primates, but also to verify the identity of French vCJD, we conducted parallel transmission to C57BL/6 mice, allowing strain-typing. The experimental scheme is depicted in Fig. 1.

Characterization of the BSE Agent in Primates. The identity of the lesion profiles obtained from the brains of the French patient with vCJD, two British patients with vCJD, and nonhuman primates infected with BSE provides experimental demonstration of the fact that the BSE agent strain has been transmitted to humans both in the U.K. and in France. Further, it lends support to the validity of the macaque model as a powerful tool for the study of vCJD. As far as the evolution of the BSE agent in primates is concerned, we observed an interesting phenomenon: at first passage of BSE in macaques and with vCJD, there was a polymorphism of the lesion profile in mice in the hippocampal region, with about half of them harboring much more severe vacuolation than the mice inoculated with cattle BSE. At second passage, the polymorphism tended to disappear, with all mice showing higher vacuolation scores in the hippocampus than cattle BSE mice. This observation suggests the appearance of a variant of the BSE agent at first passage in primates and its clonal selection during second passage in primates. The lesion profiles showed that it was still the BSE agent, but the progressive appearance of a "hippocampal signature" hallmarked the evolution toward a variant by essence more virulent to primates.

Characterization of the CJD and Scrapie Strains. Controls were set up by transmitting one French and one U.S. scrapie isolate from ruminants as well as French sCJD and iCJD cases from humans. None of these revealed a lesion profile or transmission characteristics similar or close to those of BSE or vCJD, respectively, thus extending to the present French scrapie isolate the previous observation that the BSE agent was different from all known natural scrapie strains (4, 24).
The lesion profiles of sCJD and iCJD differed only slightly in severity of the lesions, but not in shape of the profile, revealing the identity of the causative agents. One of us reported the absence of similarity between sCJD (six cases) and U.K. scrapie (eight cases) in transmission characteristics in mice (4). Herein, we made the striking observation that the French natural scrapie strain (but not the U.S. scrapie strain) has the same lesion profile and transmission times in C57BL/6 mice as do the two human TSE strains studied. This strain "affiliation" was confirmed biochemically. There is no epidemiological evidence for a link between sheep scrapie and the occurrence of CJD in humans (25). However, such a link, if it is not a general rule, would be extremely difficult to establish because of the very low incidence of CJD as well as the existence of different isolates in humans and multiple strains in scrapie. Moreover, scrapie is transmissible to nonhuman primates (26). Thus, there is still a possibility that in some instances TSE strains infecting humans do share a common origin with scrapie, as pointed out by our findings.

Transmission of vCJD and BSE to Nonhuman Primates. vCJD transmitted readily to the cynomolgus macaque after 2 years of incubation, which was comparable to the transmission obtained from first-passaged macaque BSE and much shorter than the interspecies transmission of BSE. Starting with 100 mg of BSE-macaque brain material, dilutions up to 4 µg still provoked disease. These data suggest that the BSE agent rapidly adapts to primates accompanied by enhanced virulence.
Examination of macaque brain inoculated with vCJD revealed a similar pathology to that with second-passage BSE. The distribution of vacuolation and gliosis, as well as the pattern of PrP deposition, including the dense, sometimes florid plaques, were similar to the human vCJD and the BSE hallmarks of the first passage (1, 2). These data show that the phenotype of BSE in primates is conserved over two passages. Moreover, they confirm that the BSE agent behaves similarly in humans and macaques, a precious finding that will prove useful in the near future for the design of pathogenesis or therapeutic studies. Because of the number of macaques examined in this study, we can now reliably state that the pathology, in particular the PrP deposition pattern provoked by BSE, is similar in older and very young animals. However, plaque deposition is greater, and mature florid plaques were more numerous, in the young, which may be correlated with a longer duration of the clinical phase observed in this animal (2). This is important with regard to the fact that vCJD has been diagnosed mainly in teenagers and young adults, which raises the concern that older patients may have been misdiagnosed because of an alternative phenotype of the disease. One should bear in mind, however, that cynomolgus macaques are all homozygotes for methionine at codon 129 of the PrP gene. Thus, our observations may not be relevant to humans carrying one or both valine alleles; however, all patients with vCJD reported to date have been M/M at this position (27).

Intravenous Transmissions to Nonhuman Primates. Brain pathology was identical in macaques inoculated i.c. and i.v. The i.v. route proved to be very efficient for the transmission of BSE, as shown by the 2-year survival of the animals, which is only 5 months longer than that obtained after inoculating the same amount of agent i.c. As the i.v. injection of the infectious agent implies per se a delayed neuroinvasion compared with a direct inoculation in the brain, this slight lengthening of the incubation period cannot, at this stage, be interpreted as a lower efficiency of infection as regards the i.c. route.
These data should be taken into account in the risk assessment of iatrogenic vCJD transmission by i.v. administration of biological products of human origin. They also constitute an incentive for a complete i.v. titration.

From BSE and vCJD transmissions in nonhuman primates, a number of conclusions can be drawn that are of major importance for human health: (i) human-adapted BSE appears to be a variant of the BSE agent that is more virulent for humans than cattle BSE and is efficiently transmitted by the peripheral route; (ii) the detection of vCJD in unusually young patients is probably not because of a lack of diagnosis of cases in older patients, thus raising the question of the source of human contamination with BSE early in life; and (iii) iatrogenic transmissions from patients with vCJD would be readily recognized by using the same diagnostic criteria as those applied to vCJD [clinical and pathological criteria (27) comprising neuronal loss and gliosis in the thalamus correlated with high MRI signal (28, 29)], whether such contaminations had occurred by the central or i.v. route. Primary and iatrogenic cases of vCJD could be distinguished on the basis of the patient's clinical history.

The risk assessment of biological products of human origin, notably those derived from blood, has been deeply modified by the appearance of vCJD. We confirm that the BSE agent has contaminated humans not only in the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland but also in France, and we show that its pathogenic properties for primates are being enhanced by a primary passage in humans. Considering the flow of potentially contaminated bovine-derived products between 1980 and 1996, it is obvious that further vCJD cases may occur outside the U.K. Thus, and in the light of the present study, it is necessary to sustain worldwide CJD surveillance regardless of national BSE incidence and to take all precautionary measures to avoid iatrogenic transmissions from vCJD.


J Infect Dis 1980 Aug;142(2):205-8

Oral transmission of kuru, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and scrapie to nonhuman primates.

Gibbs CJ Jr, Amyx HL, Bacote A, Masters CL, Gajdusek DC.

Kuru and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease of humans and scrapie disease of sheep and goats were transmitted to squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus) that were exposed to the infectious agents only by their nonforced consumption of known infectious tissues. The asymptomatic incubation period in the one monkey exposed to the virus of kuru was 36 months; that in the two monkeys exposed to the virus of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease was 23 and 27 months, respectively; and that in the two monkeys exposed to the virus of scrapie was 25 and 32 months, respectively. Careful physical examination of the buccal cavities of all of the monkeys failed to reveal signs or oral lesions. One additional monkey similarly exposed to kuru has remained asymptomatic during the 39 months that it has been under observation.

PMID: 6997404


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