First case of feline spongiform encephalopathy in a captive cheetah born in France: PrPsc analysis in various tissues revealed unexpected targeting of kidney and adrenal gland
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Feline spongiform encephalopathy (FSE), affecting domestic and captive feline species, is a prion disease considered to be related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Here we report an immunohistological analysis of the first FSE-affected cheetah born in France. The duration of clinical signs, of which ataxia was the main one, was about 8 weeks. The distribution of abnormal prion protein (PrPsc) was studied by immunohistochemistry within 27 different tissues. Different antibodies were used to visualise abnormal PrP deposits in situ. PrPsc accumulation was detected in the central nervous system (cerebral cortex, cerebellum, brain stem, spinal cord, retina), in peripheral nerves and in lymphoid organs. PrPsc deposits were not observed within the enteric nervous system nor in several other organs, such as pancreas, ovary, liver and muscle. More interestingly, unusual PrPsc deposits were observed within the zona fasciculata/reticularis of the adrenal gland and within some glomeruli of the kidney raising the question of possible PrPsc excretion. The sympathetic innervation of these two organs was visualised and compared to the distribution of PrPsc deposits. Our results suggest the possibility that the infectious agent is spread by both haematogenous and nervous pathways.