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From: TSS ()
Subject: TRANSCRIPT Dr. John Clifford, USDA Update On BSE Surveillance Testing Washington, DC--July 27, 2005
Date: July 27, 2005 at 3:46 pm PST

Release No. 0280.05
Office of Communications (202)720-4623

Technical Briefing With Dr. John Clifford, USDA Chief Veterinary Officer, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Update On BSE Surveillance Testing Washington, DC--July 27, 2005
OPERATOR: "Good afternoon, and thank you, all parties, for holding. Your lines have been placed on listen-only until the question and answer session. At the time of the questions please press *1. You'll be asked to state your name and affiliation. Please limit your questions to one only please. I'll now turn the call over to Mr. Jim Rogers. You may begin, sir."

JIM ROGERS: "Hello, everyone. This is Jim Rogers of APHIS, USDA. I just want to thank you all for joining us today on a regular weekday during normal business hours, unlike some of the other ones that we tend to do.

"I have with me today USDA Chief Veterinarian Dr. John Clifford. He is going to be reading a brief statement, after which we will do a brief question and answer period.

"Dr. Clifford?"

DR. JOHN CLIFFORD: "Thank you, Jim. And thanks again for joining us this afternoon.

"Late yesterday we received non-definitive test results on an animal sampled as part of our voluntary extension of our enhanced BSE surveillance program. USDA is conducting further testing at our National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, in consultation with experts from the International Reference Laboratory in Weybridge, England. We are also sending samples from this animal to the Weybridge Laboratory for further testing. It is important to note that this animal poses no threat to our food supply because it did not enter the human food or animal feed chains.

"The sample was submitted to us by a private veterinarian. As an extension of our enhanced surveillance program, accredited private veterinarians who often visit farms in remote areas collect samples when warranted. The sample in question today was taken from a cow that was at least 12 years of age and experienced complications during calving.

"The veterinarian treated the sample with a preservative which readies it for testing using the immunohistochemistry test, an internationally recognized confirmatory test for BSE.

"Neither the rapid screening test nor the Western blot confirmatory test can be conducted on a sample that has been preserved. Our laboratory ran the IHC test on the sample and received non-definitive results that suggest the need for further testing.

"As we have previously experienced, it is possible for an IHC test to yield differing results, depending on the slice of tissue that is tested. Therefore scientists at our laboratory and at Weybridge will run the IHC test on additional slices of tissue from this animal to determine whether or not it was infected with BSE.

"We will announce results as soon as they are compiled, which we expect to occur by next week.

"I would note that the sample was taken in April, at which time the protocols allowed for a preservative to be used. The sample was not submitted to us until last week because the veterinarian set aside the sample after preserving it and simply forgot to send it in.

"On that point I would like to emphasize, while that time lag is not optimal it has no implications in terms of the risk to human health. The carcass of this animal was destroyed. Therefore there is absolutely no risk to human or animal health from this animal.

"Regardless of the outcome of further testing, I want to emphasize that human and animal health in the United States are protected by a system of interlocking safeguards. The most important of these is the ban on specified risk materials from food supply. And by any measure the incidence of BSE in this country is extremely low.

"Our enhanced surveillance program is designed to provide information about the level of prevalence of BSE in the United States. We are extremely gratified that to date all sectors of the cattle industry have cooperated in this program by submitting samples from more than 419,000 animals from the highest-risk population.

"To date only one animal has tested positive for the disease as part of the surveillance program.

"The interlocking safeguards continue to protect our food supply. Those safeguards include most notably the removal of specified risk materials from animals entering the food supply and FDA's feed ban."

JIM ROGERS: "All right, Dr. Clifford. Thank you very much. At this point we're going to open it up to questions. Operator?"

OPERATOR: "Yes. At this time we will take questions. To ask a question, please press *1. You will be asked to state your name and affiliation. Please limit your question to one only. Thank you.

"First question, Daniel Goldstein. Go ahead."

REPORTER: "Yeah. Hi, Dr. Clifford. Dan Goldstein, Bloomberg News. If this test-- there was no testing being done on the Western blot or the confirmatory sample--what are you going to do if the sample basically comes up also inconclusive in Weybridge? Will it be resampled again?

"And also, why was it not sent in by the veterinarian?"

DR. CLIFFORD: "It was a private practitioner, and as we indicated the private practitioner just forgot to submit that sample to us, and we just recently received that sample. As far as the testing of this, we're taking the first particular sample that we looked at on IHC was not definitive. We're looking at other portions of the brain stem. As we'd indicated before, you know you can have differing results in different parts of the brain stem.

"We are taking those samples, preparing them today, and we'll be sending those to Weybridge as well, so they'll be doing this in concert with us as well, running their IHC as well as us running ours.

"Just to add to that, after both of those laboratories are completed with their testing then we'll be reporting out the results to you."

JIM ROGERS: "Next question, please."

OPERATOR: "The next question is from Monica Conrad. Please state your affiliation."

REPORTER: "ABC News. Can you--I just kind of want to make sure I've got this clear. You said the vet added a preservative to this sample. Did the preservative then make it impossible to run a Western blot test on it, or are you planning a Western blot, or why not?"

DR. CLIFFORD: "The preservative is formalin, and formalin-fixed tissues cannot be used to run Western blots or, for that matter, other tests such as the screening tests that are used like the ELISA screening test. You cannot run those tests on the sample."

JIM ROGERS: "Next question, please?"

OPERATOR: "Next question from Scott Killman. Please state your affiliation."

REPORTER: "Wall Street Journal. Dr. Clifford, from your position is it most likely that this is just a sampling error, that--when you say 'non-definitive result' I'm not quite clear what you mean by that. Does that suggest there's a problem with the wrong part of the brain was collected, or --"

DR. CLIFFORD: "No, absolutely not. The correct part of the brain was sampled. One part of an IHC that makes that test a good test and a good confirmatory test and a test that's used worldwide for that purpose is being able to look at that under a microscope and being able to definitively say you're in the right portion of the brain. And that's the case here.

"We have a good sample from the standpoint we know the location of the brain. If you'll recall the last case, it was a very weak positive. It had focal points of prions in that brain. And in fact both the Western blot and the IHC had samples that were negative on that last case, as well as samples that were positive.

"So the same thing could be true here. That's why we're looking at different sections of the brain. And then we will be using also, Weybridge will use their IHC.

"As we'd indicated throughout this last case the IHC-- it's not a test that you can just buy off the shelf. And so there's little variations between laboratories, and so what one may not detect another one might. So we may have luck there.

"As far as this sample, as we said it was not definitive. Basically what that means is, is looking at that slide they would not be able to determine, or the slides determine that BSE, or be able to diagnose BSE in this case. And that's simply what it means."

JIM ROGERS: "Next question, please?"

OPERATOR: "Next question, Chris Clayton, please state your affiliation?"

REPORTER: "Omaha World-Herald. Dr. Clifford, I guess now it's been known in terms of the farm where this animal was, and can you give an idea of the size of the herd of the animal and the breed that was involved?"

DR. CLIFFORD: "I think at this point in time we would refrain from doing that until a point in time in which we--if we call this positive then we'd release that type of information. I am willing to tell you, we know exactly where this animal came from and we know that the animal was destroyed.

"Again, I'd like to reiterate, this animal was at least 12 years of age, born well prior to the feed ban."

OPERATOR: "The next question is from Philip Brasher. Please state your affiliation."

REPORTER: "Hi. Yes. The Des Moines Register. I just wanted to ask, could I 'tease out' this non-definitive test result. When you all determine something is non-definitive, does that mean see some of the effects of possibly BSE but it's not clear? What makes it non-definitive, or can you be specific about why you use that term?"

DR. CLIFFORD: "Basically the IHC test, besides looking at location of the brain stem you're also doing a staining technique to identify abnormal prion proteins. In this case they had some staining, but the staining did not match up with what they would typically see in a BSE case. It didn't have the normal distribution it would see within the samples. So basically that's why the request for doing additional testing, and that's why we're sending it to Weybridge as well."

JIM ROGERS: "Next question, please."

OPERATOR: "Next question from Beth Gorham. Please state your affiliation."

REPORTER: "Canadian Press Wire Service. Dr. Clifford, can you tell me if this was a homegrown cow or whether it was from Canada?"

DR. CLIFFORD: "From all indications that we have at this point in time, this is a domestic animal."

JIM ROGERS: "Next question, please?"

OPERATOR: "Next question from Randy Fabi. Please state your affiliation?"

REPORTER: "Reuters. Yes. Hi. I was wondering if you could tell me whether there's any quarantines being done and a traceback for the offspring and any herd-mates, and also whether this will have any impact on trade negotiations with Japan and South Korea."

DR. CLIFFORD: "We do not have a hold order on the location at this time. We have not called this a case of BSE. At the time we would do that, then it would be appropriate for us to put a hold order only in for a length of time for us to look at other animals of interest that may still be in that herd.

"As far as the negotiations with Japan and Korea, you know I think basically what I would say relative to Japan is, Japan's had 20 cases of BSE. I would hope this would not have any impact on our negotiations there. Both of these animals were born prior to the feed ban, so therefore I would hope it would not have any effect or impact upon negotiations with either of those countries."

JIM ROGERS: "Next question, please."

OPERATOR: "The next question is from Pete Salento. Please state your company name."

REPORTER: " Dr. Clifford?"

DR. CLIFFORD: "Go ahead."

REPORTER: "Okay. You said the animal was a 12-year-old animal and it was flagged during calving complications in April. My question is, why was it not flagged for the biorad rapid screening test before it was preserved as part of the high-risk program?"

DR. CLIFFORD: "In remote locations and in some cases where veterinarians were out on the farm, at that point in time we allowed for those samples to be submitted in some cases in a formalin tissue to make sure that the sample got to us in a state that would allow for testing for immunohistochemistry. So therefore that's why we did that.

"Recently based upon this most recent case we changed our protocol to require those samples to be sent to us fresh, and the only time they could send them in fresh is if we were not able to receive those samples within 48 hours.

"Basically if you know the heat that we're having in Washington, DC and across much of the country, those samples can degrade pretty rapidly. So therefore we require that receipt of those to be shipped on ice within 48 hours. If it's beyond 48 hours and only then, and if and only then, can they ship it frozen if they can't get it to us in a timely fashion.

"I'd just like to reiterate that while that last sample was frozen and the Secretary made it specific not to ship frozen samples--and our points of collection where we have personnel there, none of those samples are to be shipped frozen under the same conditions. Basically they have to be shipped within 48 hours. And it's only under a rare circumstance would we allow frozen samples to be shipped.

"Now I want to also point out that frozen samples can be run against the Western blot, against the biorad test, and including the IHC."

JIM ROGERS: "Next question, please?

OPERATOR: "The next question is from Sandy Dutton. Please state your affiliation."

REPORTER: "My question was answered. Thank you."

OPERATOR: "Next question is from Bill Tomson. Please state your affiliation."

REPORTER: "Dow Jones. Hello, Dr. Clifford. I just want to--and maybe I'm beating a dead horse here--but there was some staining under the IHC, and that staining, as I understand, would suggest the possible infection of BSE. But because the staining is not what you'd normally see, it can't be confirmed this is a case of BSE? Am I understanding it right?"

DR. CLIFFORD: "Yes. You are."


DR. CLIFFORD: "There was some staining present. But it did not match a normal pattern, and we're taking through that to do additional tests in additional parts of the brain stem to try to see if we can find a normal staining pattern as well as sending that sample to Weybridge to run against their IHC."

JIM ROGERS: "Operator, at this time we have time for two more questions, please."

OPERATOR: "All right. The next question is from Jeremy Russell. Please state your affiliation."

REPORTER: "National Meat Association. Dr. Clifford, I was just wondering with the sample like this that's been around since April, what are you doing to verify chain of custody on that sample?"

JIM ROGERS: "Next question, please?"

OPERATOR: "The last question comes from Beth Gorham. Your affiliation, please?"

REPORTER: "Canadian Press. One other question, Dr. Clifford. Does this have any implications for trade with Canada in cattle? And secondly, I wanted to ask you a little bit off-topic about the fact that Montana is encouraging all other states to impose their own increased tests on Canadian cattle--whether that was necessary?"

DR. CLIFFORD: "I didn't catch the last question, but as far as the trade issue with Canada this should not have any effect on trade with Canada. We as well as Canada have very similar safeguards and surveillance approaches to this disease. We've had longstanding relationships, and we would not anticipate any trade issues with Canada.

"Could you repeat that question about the states?"

OPERATOR: "If you'd press *1 again? Beth, your line is open again."

REPORTER: "Hello? Okay. Montana officials said today that they were going to encourage--later this week they were sending out a letter to all the other states to encourage them to do their own testing, for a fee, of Canadian cows that cross the border. And I know the Department has already said the Montana plan wasn't necessary. So I was wondering what USDA can do about this."

DR. CLIFFORD: "Specifically to our knowledge there's no state that's requiring any additional testing. I think what Montana had indicated is verification of what written mitigations we had. And we have no knowledge of other states applying additional mitigations within their state."

JIM ROGERS: "All right, Operator. That concludes the call for today. I'd like to thank everyone who listened in. And in case you missed it, today's call was done by USDA Chief Veterinarian Dr. John Clifford. Dr. Clifford is the Deputy Administrator for Veterinary Services with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and part of the United States Department of Agriculture.

"The statement should be posted on the website shortly at WWW.APHIS.USDA.GOV

"Have a nice day, everybody."

Last Modified: 07/27/2005


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