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RESISTANT prions in the environment have been the sword of Damocles for scrapie control and eradication. Attempts to establish which physical and chemical agents could be applied to inactivate or moderate scrapie infectivity were initiated in the 1960s and 1970s,with the first study of this type focusing on the effect of heat treatment in reducing prion infectivity (Hunter and Millson 1964). Nowadays, most of the chemical procedures that aim to inactivate the prion protein are based on the method developed by Kimberlin and collaborators (1983). This procedure consists of treatment with 20,000 parts per million free chlorine solution, for a minimum of one hour, of all surfaces that need to be sterilised (in laboratories, lambing pens, slaughterhouses, and so on). Despite this, veterinarians and farmers may still ask a range of questions, such as ‘Is there an official procedure published somewhere?’ and ‘Is there an international organisation which recommends and defines the exact method of scrapie decontamination that must be applied?’
From a European perspective, it is difficult to find a treatment that could be applied, especially in relation to the disinfection of surfaces in lambing pens of affected flocks. A 999/2001 EU regulation on controlling spongiform encephalopathies (European Parliament and Council 2001) did not specify a particular decontamination measure to be used when an outbreak of scrapie is diagnosed. There is only a brief recommendation in Annex VII concerning the control and eradication of transmissible …
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