Demographic risk factors for classical and atypical scrapie in Great Britain.
Green DM., Del Rio Vilas VJ., Birch CPD., Johnson J., Kiss IZ., McCarthy ND., Kao RR.
Following the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis, the European Union has introduced policies for eradicating transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), including scrapie, from large ruminants. However, recent European Union surveillance has identified a novel prion disease, 'atypical' scrapie, substantially different from classical scrapie. It is unknown whether atypical scrapie is naturally transmissible or zoonotic, like BSE. Furthermore, cases have occurred in scrapie-resistant genotypes that are targets for selection in legislated selective breeding programmes. Here, the first epidemiological study of British cases of atypical scrapie is described, focusing on the demographics and trading patterns of farms and using databases of recorded livestock movements. Triplet comparisons found that farms with atypical scrapie stock more sheep than those of the general, non-affected population. They also move larger numbers of animals than control farms, but similar numbers to farms reporting classical scrapie. Whilst there is weak evidence of association through sheep trading of farms reporting classical scrapie, atypical scrapie shows no such evidence, being well-distributed across regions of Great Britain and through the sheep-trading network. Thus, although cases are few in number so far, our study suggests that, should natural transmission of atypical scrapie be occurring at all, it is doing so slowly.