Discovery Holds Promise of Live BSE Tests

CANADA - Scientists at the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) have made a discovery that could lead to the ability to perform accurate diagnostic tests on live animals for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) as opposed to only being able to test them post-mortem, as is the current option.
calendar icon 8 September 2008
clock icon 2 minute read

Working with scientists from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's BSE Reference Laboratories, the Federal Research Institute for Animal Health in Germany, and the University of Manitoba, the researchers found that changed levels of a protein in cattle urine indicates the presence of BSE with 100 per cent accuracy in a small sample set. It was also determined that changes in the relative abundance of a set of proteins corresponded with the advancement of the disease.

"We are hopeful that at some point in the future the knowledge gained from this study will make it possible to test live cattle," explains Dr. David Knox, NML scientist and lead researcher on the study published in Proteome Science. "It also may be possible to develop similar tests for other Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs) in other species, including humans." There are approximately 30 cases of classical Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (not linked to beef consumption) every year in Canada. A urine test could assist doctors in providing potential diagnoses for people experiencing dementia of unknown cause.

The scientists analysed the proteins in urine samples taken from four infected and four healthy cows of the same age, over the course of the disease. Their finding that disease progression could be monitored based on changes in the abundance of a set of proteins could have applications for the assessment of potential treatments.

"This is an important discovery and we are hopeful that it will eventually lead to a useful diagnostic test that will simplify surveillance and reduce costs," says Stefanie Czub, Manager, Virology Section & Quality Assurance, of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Further Reading

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