The associations between three major categories of the neurohistological diagnoses and the epidemiological data were examined in unconfirmed cases of clinically suspect bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The diagnostic categories were focal spongiosis of white matter (37 cases), encephalic listeriosis (13 cases) and no significant lesions (78 cases). An additional control category of 200 confirmed cases of BSE were included for comparison. Epidemiological variables were the frequencies of specific clinical signs, the season of clinical onset, the age, the duration of the clinical signs and the geographical origin of the cases. Discriminant analysis was used to assess the contribution of these variables to the distinction between the diagnostic categories. The analyses characterised the cases of listeriosis by their shortest clinical duration, the greater prevalences of certain clinical signs and their occurrence mainly in winter and spring, consistent with current understanding of the disease. Cases of focal spongiosis, a lesion of unknown significance, but potentially with a metabolic causation, were tentatively separable from cases with no significant lesions by their winter onset. The results also confirmed that among the categories, the cases of BSE had the longest clinical duration. Despite their statistical significance, the findings do not have sufficient predictive power to be of value in making clinical decisions.
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