[Newly discovered forms of prion diseases in ruminants]

H Laude, V Béringue
Pathologie-biologie 2009, 57 (2): 117-26
Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), are fatal neurodegenerative diseases caused by unconventional agents, the prions. They are characterised by the accumulation in infected tissues of an abnormally folded form of the host-encoded prion protein (PrP). This pathological form is partially resistant to protease digestion, leading to the production of so-called PrP(res) fragments. Different isolates from the same host species may show different eletrophoretic profiles, reflecting the existence of different prion strains. The active surveillance of ruminant TSEs implemented in European countries, based on a large-scale biochemical testing of brain tissue samples from carcasses, has revealed PrP(res) profiles unnoticed so far. Experimental transmission of these atypical cases to various transgenic mouse lines has led to the recognition of a novel scrapie strain in sheep and goats, called Nor98, and of two variant strains of spongiform encephalopathy in cattle. This review is aimed at summarising the current knowledge on these newly recognised forms of ruminants TSEs, and at discussing their possible origin and potential implications in terms of animal and human health.

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