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From: TSS ()
Subject: Re: French woman may have had vCJD in 1971
Date: March 25, 2005 at 6:22 pm PST

In Reply to: French woman may have had vCJD in 1971 posted by TSS on March 24, 2005 at 6:33 am:

Morbidity in captive white tigers

Kelly DF , Pearson H, Wright AI, Greenham LW The Comparative Pathology of Animals" editors RJ Montah, G Magaki Washington DC Smithsonian Institution Press 1980 pg 183-188

The white tigers that died with spongiform encephalopathy at the Bristol Zoo from 1970 to 1977 are not considered in Kirkland's s review because the condition was not transmittable. However those cases need to be revisited with immunohistochemistry and capillary electrophoresis in both tiger and recipient brains. In one scenario, these tigers could establish that the BSE epidemic had been present at low levels far earlier than ever envisioned (1960's) and had simply been amplified to epidemic levels by a later change in rendering conditions. These tigers would have been fed split spinal cords and the like -- very high risk unpooled material -- possibly several times a week for years on end, thus sampling thousands of spinal cords. Since nothing has been released on 2 confirmed tiger cases in the mid 1990's, family or zoo or enclosure connections cannot be ascertained until the British release more information.

In fact, that may be the very reason that nothing was ever published on the later tiger two cases, one of which was in 1995: these later tigers may also have been white tigers or tigers which had been in Bristol Zoo enclosure.

The paper itself describes spongiform encephalopathy or gliosis or both in the brains of 4 white tigers out of 6 that died with similar behavioral and clinical signs including weight loss, weak unsteady gait (especially in the hind limbs), could not stand without support, head-pressing, constant roaring, periods of unusual aggressiveness and unwillingness to leave the sleeping den.. The course of illness averaged 3 months to death. All of the animals are associated with the Bristol Zoo. Liver problems were also observed. Feeding practises are not disclosed.

Champak, born mar 62, died Jun7 0
Sarala, born May 68, died Oct 71
Sush!ta, born May 68, died Sep 72
Akbar, born May 68, died Dec 72
Seeta, born May 70, died Feb 73 in New Delhi after Oct 72 export
Shubhra, born May 70, died Sept 77

The Bristol Zoo purchased tweo 15-month old tigers, Champak and Chemeli in June of 1963; the litters above are the second and third. There is no information on the other 18 white tigers born in Bristol between 1967 and 1976. These are the offspring of the original white tiger, Mohan, captured in 1951 by the Maharaja of Rewa. Outbred with a normal tigress and then back-crossed into a daughter, Radha, resulted in the original litters. White tigers are not albinos.

A pilot study of transmission by intracerebral injection into mice from fresh frozen cerebrum and cerebellum from Akbar gave statistically shortened lifespans but no overt illness. Akbar had "striking vacuolation of the neuropil in the grey and white matter and focal cerebral microgliosis. Histological features of classical encephalitis were absent.

Frozen sample material was sent and saved by CJ Gibbs who noted on 25 Apr 99:

"The first I had heard of the death of these tigers was a call from
the Director of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. There had been
a meeting of various zoo individuals and during the meeting a
pathologist from the Bristol zoo presented data on the death of
white tigers in his zoo and described then as having spongiform
encephalopathy. Hearsay remarks were made to indicate that other
white tigers of the same family living on a private estate in India
had died manifesting a similar clinical syndrome. Bristol zoo may
have records about the history of these tigers. It is amazing to me
that when I brought this issue up at a meeting I held at the CVL
shortly after the outbreak of BSE, the door was closed on any
further acquisition of white tiger material including slides."

Subsequently the Bristol pathologist sent me some frozen tissues
which I inoculated into squireel and capuchin monkeys and which I
used to try to extract prion protein. We were not able to identify
the abnormal isoform of the prion protein nor were we able to
transmitt disease to squirrel monkeys or to capuchin monkeys. In
addition a limited number of mice and hamsters were also inoculated
at the same time and these remained on for two years before being
killed and their brains examined for pathological lesions of
spongiform encephalopathy and for the presence of PrPres. All tessts
were negative.

The squirrel monkeys were kept under observation (one for 19 years
and another is still in our colony- now 20 years); the inoculated
capuchin monkeys were held under observation (one for 9 years and
the other for 4 years) before dying of intercurrent infections. All
three primates were carefully examined neuropathologicaly and for
extraction of PrP. All three were negative.

We did not try immunocytochemistry. There is still a piece of
cerebellum from one of the tigers but this was received frozen and
remains at -80C (.the morphology will be bad.)"

Katherine O'Rourke at WSU notes that "because histology was done on the tigers, there must have been formalin fixed tissues. Since pathologists rarely discard paraffin blocks of tissue, these samples are probably still available. The most efficient way to get IHC done would be to contact Dr. Wells in the UK. He has been immunostaining with one of our antibodies which is predicted to bind the conserved epitope on the feline PrP and probably has access to antibody 3F4. He would have access to FSE tissues from domestic cats for positive controls."

The Bristol Zoo is located in Clifton, Bristol, UK, Tel: 0044-1179-706-176 or 0117 973 8951, fax: 0044-1179-736-814. Geoffrey Greed is director of IUCN programs; J. Bryan Carroll is Operations Manager, EEP coordinator for Pithecia pithecia (white-faced saki), and E.E.P. Studbook keeper for Rachypithecus auratus auratus (Javan leaf monkey/lutung ); Darren A. Webste is EEP studbook keeper for Alouatta caraya (black howler monkey). No emails are provided other than Stephen Woollard at or

Bristol Zoo Gardens today participates in a total of 82 Conservation Breeding Programmes, of which 30 are for mammals (the zoo has 322 animals of 91 species). "Caring for animals is very expensive. Each year the Zoo spends approximately £100,000 on food, £90,000 on gas and electricity, £50,000 on water and £50,000 on other items such as veterinary fees, cleaning and transport. "

Ironically, the zoo offers a play, The Last Tyger in July 1999 described as, " The Travelling Light Theatre present a richly textured, vibrant and colourful story about the world's last tiger, lost in an urban jungle, and the two city children who find her and decide to set her free. 'Marvellously imaginative' The Stage 'Far too good to miss' Time Out."


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