Scrapie – Committee Report

You can find more information about Scrapie on the website of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
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Advancing eradication: genetic scrapie resistance in goats

Testing for genetic resistance in sheep has been a useful tool in scrapie management and eradication. The Canadian goat industry may now also breed for genetic resistance to scrapie. The Canadian goat industry has been supportive of better understanding of genetic resistance in goats to help producers eradicate scrapie.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is working towards piloting the use of genetic resistance alleles S146 and K222 (via a pilot study) in the future of our National Scrapie Eradication Program (NSEP). This is an approach consistent with the United States (US) and the European Union (EU).

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What is Scrapie?

Scrapie is a naturally occurring disease of domestic and wild sheep and goats. It was first reported in sheep over 250 years ago (1938 in Canada). New Zealand and Australia are the only countries recognized as scrapie-free at this time. Scrapie is considered a TSE and is of the same family as BSE (in cattle) and CWD (deer and elk).

What causes Scrapie?

Scrapie is caused by a transmissible agent (prion). In the infected female, pregnancy appears to trigger the migration of abnormal protein prion from the central nervous system to the reproductive tract. Birthing fluids and tissues, such as placenta, from infected females contain large quantities of the scrapie agent. Newborns, and healthy co-housed animals become infected by eating or licking contaminated materials in the kidding environment. Both males and females are equally susceptible to scrapie, however males do not transmit the agent as they do not give birth, and evidence to date has not implicated semen in the transmission of scrapie.

How to Diagnose Scrapie

Clinical signs of scrapie rarely develop before the age of 18 months and are highly variable. The majority of cases are diagnosed in animals 2 to 5 years of age. As many animals do NOT show overt clinical signs until late in the course of the disease, significant transmission of the scrapie agent can occur before any visible indication of a disease problem presents itself. In all cases, Scrapie is fatal and no treatment is available. Scrapie is a reportable disease and falls under CFIA’s mandate.

Scrapie is diagnosed through the detection of the abnormal prion protein in the brain of the animal. This abnormal prion detection is detectable on a consistent basis in animals greater than 12 months of age.

No live animals test exists for the detection of scrapie at this time. In order to test, animals must either have died, or be put down to acquire the necessary brain samples.

Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Project

The USDA has indicated that importation of live animals into the US for breeding purposes will not take place unless those animals originate from a Scrapie free region or herd. CNGF (in partnership with the Canadian Sheep Breeder’s Association and CFIA) is currently involved in a Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Pilot Project.

The Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Project is a five-year project, with funding provided between 2005 and 2010.

The funding provided for 60 sheep flocks and 10 goat herds to be enrolled in this program.

The program is VOLUNTARY and is designed to give producers a means of detecting and controlling scrapie within their herd, resulting in recognition that the risk of animals from their flock being infected with scrapie diminishes to negligible with progressive participation in the program. “Scrapie-free” status is determined based on the results of surveillance testing on dead stock, screening the herd for presence of disease, restricting animals entering the flock and the absence of clinical signs.

Program Levels

The program includes six levels, with a MINIMUM of five (5) years participation for a herd to reach the Certified level.

A brief overview of the requirements of the program is as follows: Producers enrolled in the program will be required to do initial and annual inventories on all animals on their premises which will be performed by a veterinarian accredited by CFIA.

Detailed herd records are required for every animal born, as well as every animal entering the herd or leaving the herd.

A brain sample from all goats over 12 months of age that die on the farm must be submitted for scrapie testing by a CFIA approved laboratory. Introduction of females into the herd must come from a herd of equivalent status.

If females from herds of a lower certification level are introduced, the status of the recipient herd will be downgraded to that of the flock or origin.  Introduction of males from herds of any status will have no impact on certification level.

Certification Costs

While enrolled in the program, the producer will be required to absorb the costs of veterinary fees, shipping of samples to an approved lab, and any other costs that may be related to achieving certification status.