The Cheviot flock at the Institute for Animal Health's Neuropathogenesis Unit (npu) has endemic scrapie, which affects primarily vrq/vrq sheep and at high frequency. A new flock with a full range of PrP genotypes, including the highly susceptible vrq/vrq, has been produced on a separate site, from animals in the npu breeding flock, and it remains scrapie-free after eight years. In contrast, in a parallel flock at the npu farm, scrapie has reappeared after five years, although the animals were kept in separate accommodation from the scrapie-affected sheep. During this time the npu breeding flock continued to have scrapie cases. Although it is known that highly susceptible sheep can remain free of infection in a clean environment, this is the first report of the infection being removed successfully from the bloodlines of scrapie-affected sheep. The results confirm that scrapie is not a genetic disease dependent only on the PrP gene sequence, but requires both genetic susceptibility and an infectious agent.
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