Memorandum submitted by the Meat and Livestock
Commission (R 6)
MLC is pleased to be able to submit evidence
into the Agricultural Select Committee's enquiry regarding Government
research into Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs).
The current MAFF Research Programme includes
a commitment to research into TSEs for 2000-01 totalling £13.5
million. The nature of the research programme covers scientific
research into areas such as diagnosis, epidemiology, pathogenesis
and transmission. Complementary research is being undertaken funded
by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
and by other sources of public funds.
The Food Standards Agency undertook a thorough
review of BSE controls during 2000 and made a number of specific
recommendations regarding research. MLC were stakeholders in those
discussions and would support conclusions of the report which
was issued in December 2000.
There is a clear and urgent need for the development
of rapid diagnostic tests which can identify animals incubating
TSE diseases but not expressing any clinical symptoms. These tests
need to be of sufficient sensitivity to identify animals that
could be subclinical carriers.
The development of validated tests which could
be used in the live animal and in the abattoir on carcases to
determine the presence or absence of TSEs would be of great value.
MLC is aware that the three approved EU tests
have only been validated on bovine tissue sourced post-mortem
from animals which were known to be clinically expressing disease.
The three tests are the Prionics Check test
which is based upon Western Blotting, the Enfer test which is
based upon an ELIZA method and the CEA test which is an immunological
The five tests currently submitted for evaluation
by the EU are all post-mortem tests.
Research into the understanding of differences
of TSE prion proteins is also valued. It would be particularly
useful to have a test which distinguishes different glyco-form
2. BREEDING FOR
As members of the Scrapie Information Group,
MLC supports the principles of the National Scrapie Plan, the
first phases of which have been introduced. This is a long term
project which is likely to take in excess of 10 years to come
to fruition. This highlights the need for diagnostic tests in
the meantime. A key question that must, however, be addressed
is whether selection for scrapie resistance confers a potential
danger of a carrier state for BSE in sheep. It is, nevertheless,
acknowledged that BSE has not been found in sheep other than through
experimental transmission in the laboratory.
MLC understands that the Medical Research Council
is currently developing a website which will review TSE public
sector funded research being undertaken by MAFF, the Science Research
Councils and other public bodies. This approach is welcomed in
the interests of openness.
4. OTHER TSE
MLC supports the funding of research in areas
such as TSE agent survival in the environment and in the evolution
of methods to inactivate the prion protein including the use of
high pressure steam and strong alkalis.
5. COST OF
Intra-species testing on tissue infectivity
levels in cattle is expensive and time consuming. The opportunity
of developing the use of the bovine transgenic mouse to re-visit
previous experiments should be actively pursued.
MLC would welcome the opportunity to discuss
these matters at an oral hearing with the Agricultural Select
Committee to expand upon the summary contents made.
30 January 2001