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Category Archives: International

New funding for BSE research at U of A

EDMONTON – University of Alberta scientists will use new funding to find out how much testing needs to be done before consumers are confident the beef they’re eating is BSE-free.

The study is one of four projects to share in $1.9 million awarded to U of A researchers by PrioNet. The network pulls together scientists from across the country, as well as members of government, non-government organizations and industry, to work on the ultimate goal of eradicating the impact of prion disease.

Prion diseases include bovine spongiform encephalopathy (commonly known as mad cow disease), Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans, a variant human form of CJD acquired from the consumption of BSE-contaminated cattle products (vCJD), and chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer and elk.

Prion diseases are untreatable, infectious, and fatal neurodegenerative diseases.

Normal prion proteins are found on the surface of human and animal cells.

Prion diseases occur when the normal prion protein is misshapen into the infectious disease-causing form, called prions. Scientists are still trying to figure out how the misshaping occurs.

Another one of the projects to get new funding will use X-ray crystallography to determine the 3-D make-up of a molecule. This will provide important molecular information about blocking the misshaping of a prion protein into the disease-causing, infectious prion.

U of S Researchers Given $1.2M for Prion Disease Studies

Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan have been given a $1.2 million boost in their efforts to find solutions to threats posed by prion diseases.

The funding, provided by PrioNet Canada, is part of an $8 million total injection into 19 projects by 60 researchers across the country. The goal is to accelerate discoveries surrounding prion diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, commonly known as mad cow), chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer and elk, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a variant human form of CJD acquired through the consumption of BSE-contaminated cattle products.

“Ultimately, these projects will translate to safer food, health, and environmental systems for Canadians,” PrioNet scientific director Dr. Neil Cashman stated in a news release about the funding announcements.

Prion diseases are untreatable, infectious, and fatal neurodegenerative diseases. Normal prion proteins are found on the surface of the cells of both humans and animals. Prion diseases occur when the normal prion protein is misshapen into the infectious disease-causing form. Research is still trying to determine exactly how the misshaping occurs. Prions represent a new class of infectious agents that cause disease because, unlike other viruses or bacteria, prions do not contain any DNA or RNA.

Dr. Andrew Potter from the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO), based at the U of S, is heading up the work on developing a BSE vaccine for cattle. This vaccine would not only provide the first preventative treatment against BSE, but also considerable cost savings to Canada as current BSE-testing regimes are expensive and cumbersome. Furthermore, Potter’s research may lead to vaccines that will aid in the prevention of other prion diseases.

The other U of S project, intended to minimize the spread of CWD in wild deer, is being led by Dr. Trent Bollinger. To date, culling infected herds has been the main practice to try stopping the spread of CWD, but such efforts have not been successful. In addition, the persistent spread of CWD in wild deer leads to increased transmission risks to other species, like moose, or even humans.

Bollinger’s study will provide key data on movement patterns of wild deer in the environment and evaluate the effects deer culling and the presence of feed supplements have on the transmission of CWD in wild deer. This information will help shape policy and wildlife management strategies to reduce the incidence and spread of CWD.

The economic crisis resulting from the May 2003 discovery of a Canadian BSE-infected cow spurred the research. PrioNet Canada, established in 2005 through the federal government’s Networks of Centres of Excellence program, was created to position Canada as a world leader in prion disease research.

U of C Researchers Get Funding For CWD Study

Researchers from the University of Calgary and from Germany will be looking at whether Chronic Wasting Disease in deer can spread to human populations.

CWD is spreading through deer and elk herds in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The $5 million study is the largest prion project ever funded by the Alberta Prion Research Institute.

The Institute says it’s important to know the ramifications of the disease on human health to set public policy and inform hunters and ranchers.

The tests will involve injecting non-human primates with high doses of Chronic Wasting Disease to see if they develop the disease.

The Prion Institute supports research into the proteins that cause CWD as well as Creutzfeld-Jacob disease in humans and BSE in cattle.

Increased Funding of Two Surveillance Programmes

Increased funding of two surveillance programmes. New government funding of $1.086 million has been allocated over the next two years to existing surveillance programmes for scrapie in goats and sheep, and chronic wasting disease of deer.

Derek Belton, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) Director of Animal Biosecurity says that although New Zealand is recognised as free from scrapie and chronic wasting disease (CWD), increased surveillance is necessary to meet new requirements under the World Organisation for Animal Health’s international standard for proof of country freedom from this disease.

“We need to provide robust evidence to overseas authorities and consumers that, if these diseases were present in New Zealand our surveillance programmes would detect them.

“Failure to provide adequate evidence in support of claims of country freedom from these diseases could jeopardise New Zealand’s currently accepted animal health status. This would affect market access for our sheep, goat and deer sector exports and our bio-pharmaceutical industry, which has an excellent international reputation that depends on New Zealand being scrapie free,” he said.

Under the expanded program, testing for scrapie and CWD will increase to 3,300 sheep samples, 300 goat samples and 300 deer samples per year.

The government has agreed to fund surveillance for these diseases while proposals for industry funding are developed. These proposals will be presented in a discussion paper to be released for public comment by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry by May next year.

Like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), scrapie and CWD are brain wasting diseases classified as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). With the emergence of BSE in Europe, New Zealand adopted a targeted surveillance programme for TSEs, which has seen the number of cattle samples tested for BSE increase to approximately 2000 per year.

Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system of sheep and goats. It was first described in Great Britain and other countries of Western Europe more than 250 years ago and has been reported throughout the world.

Only New Zealand, Australia and South Africa are generally recognised as free from this disease.

CWD is a similar condition of deer and elk. Until recently, this disease appeared to be restricted to two states in the USA, but has since been detected in nine states, two Canadian provinces and in South Korea, in an elk imported from Canada. Unlike BSE, there is no evidence that scrapie or CWD pose risks to human health.

New Zealand has never had a case of CWD, but has been exposed to risk of this disease through the importation of elk from Canadian herds subsequently found to be infected.

Scrapie and CWD are notifiable and passive surveillance has been maintained since 1952.