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Low incident rate of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies across Europe

By Aidan Fortune , 02-Dec-2016
Last updated on 02-Dec-2016 at 13:08 GMT2016-12-02T13:08:46Z

Around 114 million head of cattle have been tested for BSE since 2001
Around 114 million head of cattle have been tested for BSE since 2001

Incidents of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs) were found to be rare in 2015, according to a new European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report.

In its first European Union summary report on data of the surveillance of ruminants for the presence of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in 2015, it was found that there were low rates of TSE incidents in Member States (MS) and non-Member States (non-MS). Previous to this year, the annual reports on TSEs were compiled by the European Commission.

In 2015, 1.4 million (m) bovine animals were tested and five cases were detected in four MS (Ireland: one case; Slovenia: one case; Spain: one case; and the United Kingdom: two cases) and one case was detected in Norway. The number of samples tested represented a 40% drop on the previous year, with tests performed on risk animals over 48 months of age.

The cases in Ireland and the United Kingdom were affected by classical BSE and both cases were born after the EU-wide feed ban enforced in 2001.

Disease risk reduced

Since 2001, approximately 114m cattle in the EU have been tested for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

The report stated that “age-period analysis of the surveillance data confirms a decrease in the occurrence of C-BSE over time, associated with an increase in the age class with the highest prevalence over the years. This pattern indicates that the measures applied to control the main risk factors (e.g. feed ban) have been effective in reducing the burden of the disease. A similar conclusion is also justified by the fact that the highest level of detection occurred in animals born in 1995, when the decline commenced.

During the same year, 319,638 sheep and 135,857 goats were tested. In total, 641 scrapie cases in sheep were detected in 18 MS while 1,052 scrapie cases in goats were detected in nine MS, respectively. In two non-MS, Iceland and Norway, 40 scrapie cases in sheep were detected.

The report said there is no clear overall trend of improvement in the epidemiological situation of scrapie in small ruminants either in terms of absolute number of cases or proportion of cases. However, in a number of countries a decreasing trend in the annual ratios of classical scrapie or atypical scrapie was observed.