Finnish sheep breeds have genetically little resistance to classical scrapie

2.1.2013

<p>The Finnish Food Safety Authority has first researched and published information on the genetic resistance to scrapie in Finnish sheep population. Almost 16 000 sheep were tested for scrapie in Finland during 2002–2008. Five atypical scrapie cases were found indicating that the disease is present in Finnish sheep population at low level. No classical scrapie was found, although the Finnish sheep population was shown to have genetically little resistance to classical scrapie. <br /></p>

Scrapie is a transmissible, naturally occurring neurological disease of sheep and goats which belongs to the group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). The progression of scrapie is known to be influenced by the amino acid polymorphisms of the host prion protein (PrP) gene. Especially polymorphisms at codons 136, 154 and 171 of the prion gene are associated to susceptibility to classical scrapie. Moreover, phenylalanine at codon 141 has been associated to atypical scrapie. In the present study we have analysed PrP genotypes of total of 928 crossbred and purebred sheep including Finnish Landrace, Grey race sheep of Kainuu and Aland sheep during 2002–2008.

The results indicate that Finnish sheep have genetically little resistance to classical scrapie. Majority of the studied sheep were shown to have genotype that confer only little resistance to classical scrapie whereas only five percent of the studied sheep populations at the most were shown to have most resistant genotype to classical scrapie. Although phenylalanine at codon 141 was rare in the studied sheep, it was detected from one of the five found atypical scrapie cases.

Scrapie has been recognized as a clinical disorder of sheep worldwide for more than 270 years. The assumed aetiological agent of scrapie is a protease-resistant isoform of the host-encoded prion protein. It is characterized by gradual degeneration of the central nervous system, invariably leading to animal’s death.

The research results are published in the international scientific publication Hautaniemi, M., Tapiovaara, H., Korpenfelt, S.-L., Sihvonen, L.
Genotyping and surveillance for scrapie in Finnish sheep.
BMC Veterinary Research 2012 Jul 25;8:122.

For further information, please contact:
Maria Hautaniemi, Senior Researcher, Veterinary Virology Research Unit,
tel. +358 50 573 6891

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