Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) occurred in cattle in Great Britain after the inclusion of protein derived from infected tissues in their feed, and the incidence of the disease has been reduced by the introduction of legislation to prevent the inclusion of such protein in ruminant feed. This paper describes a case-control study designed to investigate whether there is any evidence for direct transmission of infection to cattle born after the introduction of this legislation. The offspring of animals that were subsequently affected with BSE were not found significantly more often among the cases. There was a statistically significant risk for animals born up to three days after a subsequently affected animal calved, but it may not indicate a causal association. Even after adjusting for an animal's exposure to infected animals that calved but would have been culled from the herd before developing clinical signs of BSE these routes of transmission could not account for the majority of cases born after the introduction of the legislation. A between herd comparison is suggested as a method of investigating alternative sources of infection.
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