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Diseases - Scrapie


Scrapie is a fatal brain disease of sheep and goats and has been present in the UK flock for over 250 years. There are many clinical symptoms of the disease such as irritation, changes in behaviour and changes in posture.

These clinical signs can be confused with other sheep diseases. If you suspect that a sheep or goat has scrapie, by law it must be reported to your local Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) office. At present TSEs (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies) can only be confirmed by examination of brain material after the animal is dead.

Scrapie control

Scrapie is difficult to control and often reoccurs in affected flocks with most cases occurring in animals between 2-5 years of age. Scrapie can be controlled by testing the blood, semen or tissue sample to establish an animal's susceptibility or otherwise to determine the animal's DNA.

This test, called the PrP genotyping test, determines the animal's genotype. Sheep can have up to 15 possible genotypes, and these can determine whether it may develop scrapie if exposed to a scrapie agent.

The National Scrapie Plan (NSP) has been very successful in reducing the incidence of scrapie in GB. In 2012, there were very few cases of scrapie in Scotland. Statistics on the incidence of scrapie can be viewed on the APHA website.

Atypical scrapie

A previously undetected TSE in sheep, named atypical scrapie, was more recently identified in 2002 through the use of more sensitive diagnostic techniques. Few clinical cases of atypical scrapie have been found in UK with most cases identified through the Active Surveillance Programme. It is possible that atypical scrapie represent more than one type of TSE. Other European countries have also reported similar findings through their own programmes of TSE surveillance.