EFSA has published its first EU summary report on the monitoring of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs) in cattle, sheep and goats. Previously, the annual reports on TSEs were compiled by the European Commission.
EFSA reports that in 2015, 1.4 million bovine animals were tested and 5 cases were detected in 4 member states (MS) (Ireland: 1 case; Slovenia: 1 case; Spain: 1 case; and the United Kingdom: 2 cases) and 1 case was detected in Norway.
2 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. The remaining 4 cases were atypical BSE cases (3 H-BSE type and 1 L-BSE type).
Scrapie in small ruminants
Since 2002, approximately 8.4 million small ruminants have been tested during the EU-wide surveillance for scrapie. In 2015, 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 2 non-MS (Iceland and Norway), 40 scrapie cases in sheep were detected.
Although in a number of MS the decrease in classical scrapie is clear, at the EU level there is no clear decreasing trend in the occurrence of scrapie in small ruminants. Results obtained from genotyping in sheep confirm that cases of classical scrapie are clustered among certain genotypes, and animals with these genotypes seem to account for less than 20% of the European randomly sampled sheep population. In total, 580 samples from species other than domestic ruminants were tested for TSE in 3 MS, all with negative results.
BSE and TSE history
Processed animal protein (PAP) produced from ruminant carcasses, some of which were infected, are assumed to be the transmission route of BSE in feed for farmed animals. This led to a feed ban in 1994, which prohibits the feeding of mammalian processed animal protein to cattle, sheep and goats. The ban was expanded in January 2001 with the feeding of all processed animal proteins to all farmed animals being prohibited, with certain limited exceptions. This is to ensure that there is no cross-contamination between feed containing PAP intended for species other than ruminants and feed intended for ruminants. Only certain animal proteins considered to be safe (such as fishmeal) can be used, and even then under very strict conditions.
There are 2 forms of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), a TSE disease: Classical BSE, which is transmitted via the feed and was the cause of the BSE epidemics in the 80s, 90s and 2000s; and Atypical BSE (with 2 types of Atypical BSE: the L-type and the H-type), which is considered to be a spontaneous and sporadic disease, not linked to the feed given the animals, occurring at a very low prevalence rate in old bovine animals.