The incidence of natural scrapie in sheep is associated with polymorphisms of the PrP gene, particularly those at codons 136, 154 and 171. In many breeds, the PrP allele encoding valine at codon 136 confers an extremely high risk of scrapie, but in Suffolk sheep this allele is vanishingly rare. In this study of a single closed flock of Suffolk sheep in Scotland, scrapie occurred primarily in animals which were homozygous for glutamine at codon 171, a genotype which was significantly less frequent in healthy flockmates. However, the apparent linkage between glutamine at codon 171 and scrapie was not completely recessive because two of 64 scrapie cases were heterozygous glutamine/arginine. These results suggest that breeding for increased resistance to scrapie in Suffolks by the selection of animals according to their PrP genotype is a feasible option.
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