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Preliminary observations on the pathogenesis of experimental bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE): an update
  1. G. A. H. Wells, BVetMed, FRCPath, DipECVP, MRCVS1,
  2. S. A. C. Hawkins, MIBiol1,
  3. R. B. Green1,
  4. A. R. Austin, BVetMed, MRCVS1,
  5. I. Dexter1,
  6. Y. I. Spencer, BSc, DipHE1,
  7. M. J. Chaplin1,
  8. M. J. Stack1 and
  9. M. Dawson, BVetMed, MSc, MRCVS1
  1. 1 Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Central Veterinary Laboratory, New Haw, Addlestone, Surrey KT15 3NB


Further preliminary observations are reported of an experiment to examine the spread of infectivity and the occurrence of pathological changes in cattle exposed orally to infection with bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Calves were dosed at four months of age and clinically monitored groups were killed sequentially from two to 40 months after inoculation. Tissues were collected for bioassay, for histopathological examinations and for the detection of PrP. Previous reported observations have included the presence of infectivity in the distal ileum of cattle killed after six to 18 months, the earliest onset of clinical signs in an exposed animal after 35 months, and diagnostic histopathological changes in the brain, in association with clinical disease, after 36, 38 and 40 months. In spite of the relative inefficiency of the bioassay of scrapie-like agents across a species barrier the new observations confirm that the onset of clinical signs and pathological changes in the central nervous system (CNS) occur at approximately the same time. The earliest pathological change, the presence of abnormal PrP 32 months after inoculation, coincided with the earliest detected infectivity in the CNS and occurred shortly before there was evidence of typical spongiform changes in the brain 36 months after inoculation. Infectivity has now been demonstrated in the peripheral nervous system, in the cervical and thoracic dorsal root ganglia 32 to 40 months after inoculation and in the trigeminal ganglion 36 and 38 months after inoculation. At the time of writing evidence of infectivity in other tissues is confined to the distal ileum, not only after six to 18 months but also after 38 and 40 months, but these findings may be supplemented by the results of further mouse assays. Nevertheless, they are in general agreement with current knowledge of the pathogenesis of scrapie.

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