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BSE immunohistochemical patterns in the brainstem: a comparison between UK and Italian cases

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The continuous monitoring of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) cases is an integral component of European research and surveillance programmes, to ensure that any changes in the presentation of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) in cattle can be detected and defined. Monitoring is generally limited to the brainstem at the level of the obex, for reasons of practicality, safety and cost. Demonstration of disease-specific prion protein (PrPd) by immunohistochemistry is currently the most widely used confirmatory tool for both active and passive surveillance. This study assessed PrPd immunostaining in the brainstems (obex) of cattle with BSE in the UK and Italy. Immunoreactivity ‘profiles’ were created for each case based on the nature of the immunostaining, its relative intensity and precise neuroanatomical location. This study compares the obex immunostaining patterns of Italian cases (only active surveillance) and two UK groups (both active and passive surveillance). The neuroanatomical distribution and relative intensity of PrPd was highly reproducible in all cases. The overall staining intensity varied widely but was generally stronger in the active than in the passive surveillance populations. The conclusion to be drawn from this comparative study is that the pattern of immunopathology in these routine screening samples for BSE diagnosis and surveillance is the same in the UK and Italy, whether or not the animal was displaying typical, or indeed any, clinical signs at the time of sampling. This indicates that the current confirmatory diagnostic strategy remains appropriate for active surveillance applications.

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The authors wish to thank the staff of the Pathology Department, VLA-Weybridge, and the CEA, IZS Turin for their excellent technical assistance. This work was funded by Defra (Project SE 0225 to MMS) and the Italian Ministry of Health (IZS PLV 001/01 to CC).

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Correspondence to M. M. Simmons.

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Casalone, C., Caramelli, M., Crescio, M.I. et al. BSE immunohistochemical patterns in the brainstem: a comparison between UK and Italian cases. Acta Neuropathol 111, 444–449 (2006).

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