Free Access
Vet. Res.
Volume 39, Number 4, July-August 2008
Prion diseases in animals
Number of page(s) 12
Published online 08 February 2008
How to cite this article Vet. Res. (2008) 39:25
How to cite this article: Vet. Res. (2008) 39:25
DOI: 10.1051/vetres:2007064


Progress and limits of PrP gene selection policy

Michael Dawson1, Richard C. Moore2 and Stephen C. Bishop3

1  National Scrapie Plan Administration Centre, Animal Health, Worcester, WR5 2SU, UK
2  Roslin Institute, Roslin, Midlothian, EH25 9PS, UK
3  Roslin Institute and Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Roslin BioCentre, Midlothian, EH25 9PS, UK

Received 4 September 2007; accepted 13 November 2007; published online 8 February 2008

Abstract - Classical scrapie has proved to be a notoriously difficult disease to control due to a poor understanding of its natural history. The recognition of disease risk linkage to PrP genotype has offered the prospect of a disease control strategy, viz. genotyping and selective breeding, novel to veterinary medicine when first considered in the 1990s. The UK Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee recommended the exploitation of this approach in a voluntary, national programme to control classical scrapie and protect the public against food-borne exposure to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, should the national flock have been exposed via contaminated feed. The National Scrapie Plan for Great Britain was launched in 2001 and uptake has been widespread throughout the purebreeding sector of the sheep industry, with membership peaking at over 12 000 flocks in 2006. A total of 700 000 rams from 90 breeds have been genotyped. A comparison of ram lambs born in 2002 with those in 2006 shows evident changes in PrP genotype frequencies which are predicted to be associated with a reduction in disease risk. Various concerns have been raised regarding possible unintended consequences of widespread selection on PrP genotype, including impacts on other performance traits and possible effects on inbreeding and genetic diversity. To date, these concerns appear to be unfounded, as no consistent associations have been found with performance traits, nor are there likely to be any detectable impacts on inbreeding in mainstream breeds. Currently, semen banks have been implemented in Great Britain to store samples from animals of all common PrP genotypes, should these genotypes be required in the future. Various strategies to minimise future disease risks are discussed in the paper.

Key words: scrapie / genotyping / control / limitations / concerns

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© INRA, EDP Sciences 2008