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TRANSMISSIBLE spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) are a group of neurodegenerative diseases caused by the accumulation in the central nervous system (CNS) of an anomalous isoform called prion protein (Prusiner 1982). Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) represents one of the most important food crises of past decades in Europe. BSE started in the UK, due to cattle consumption of feedstuff contaminated with prions (Wilesmith and others 1992). In Europe, efforts have focused on eradicating the disease in the bovine population. However, since sheep and goats are susceptible to prion diseases, eradication efforts in these species have to be considered; in fact, in 2005 the first case of natural BSE in a goat from France was diagnosed (Eloit and others 2005). These findings imply that BSE in small ruminants (particularly goats) could represent a danger for human health and therefore various strategies must be considered to avoid infection.
It has been recognised that polymorphisms of the PRNP gene are responsible for some element of susceptibility or resistance to prion diseases. Studies in sheep have shown that the haplotype …
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