Semen from 13 bulls, eight with clinical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BsE), was used to artificially inseminate (AI) 167 cows with clinical BSE, and their resultant embryos were collected non-surgically seven days after Al. The viable and non-viable embryos with intact zonae pellucidae were washed 10 times (as recommended by the International Embryo Transfer Society) then frozen. Later, 587 of the viable embryos were transferred singly into 347 recipient heifers imported from New Zealand, and 266 live offspring were born of which 54.1 per cent had a BSE-positive sire and a BSE-positive dam. The recipients were monitored for clinical signs of BSE for seven years after the transfer, and the offspring were monitored for seven years after birth. Twenty-seven of the recipients and 20 offspring died while being monitored but none showed signs of BSE. Their brains, and the brains of the recipients and offspring killed after seven years, were examined for BSE by histopathology, PrP immunohistochemistry, and by electron microscopy for scrapieassociated fibrils. They were all negative. In addition, 1020 non-viable embryos were sonicated and injected intracerebrally into susceptible mice (20 embryos per mouse) which were monitored for up to 700 days, after which their brains were examined for spongiform lesions. They were all negative. It is concluded that embryos are unlikely to carry BSE infectivity even if they have been collected at the end-stage of the disease, when the risk of maternal transmission is believed to be highest.
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