E.F.S.A. weighs in on scrapie risks

by Bryan Salvage
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PARMA, ITALY – The European Food Safety Authority’s Panel on Biological Hazards published an opinion stating that the risk of transmission of Classical scrapie through artificial insemination and embryo transfer in sheep and goats ranges from negligible to low. However, experts stressed that data are not sufficient to conclude that the risk is negligible.

Due to similarities in the disease development process for Classical scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (B.S.E.) in small ruminants, experts considered the conclusions for Classical scrapie to be also valid for B.S.E. They could not assess the risk posed by Atypical scrapie – another Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (T.S.E.) – due to lack of knowledge about the developmental process for this particular disease and about the distribution of the infective agent in affected animals.

Experts stressed there is a iatrogenic risk of T.S.E. transmission that is risk inherent to the artificial insemination and embryo transfer activities themselves; for instance, through the use of animal-derived hormones associated with such procedures.

The B.I.O.H.A.Z. Panel also pointed out the absence of reliable figures on the annual number of artificial inseminations and embryo transfers in small ruminants in the European Union hampers the quantitative assessment of the risk of T.S.E. transmission linked to these practices. Recommendations were made by some experts that could reduce the risk of T.S.E. transmission associated with these reproductive technologies and facilitate future risk assessments in this area.

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