Free Access
Vet. Res.
Volume 39, Number 4, July-August 2008
Prion diseases in animals
Number of page(s) 12
Published online 15 February 2008
How to cite this article Vet. Res. (2008) 39:33
How to cite this article: Vet. Res. (2008) 39:33
DOI: 10.1051/vetres:2008009


Progress and limits of TSE diagnostic tools

Jacques Grassi, Séverine Maillet, Stéphanie Simon and Nathalie Morel

CEA, iBiTecS, Service de Pharmacologie et d'Immunoanalyse, bâtiment 136, CEA/Saclay, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France

Received 2 October 2007; accepted 5 February 2008 ; published online 15 February 2008

Abstract - Following the two "mad cow" crises of 1996 and 2000, there was an urgent need for rapid and sensitive diagnostic methods to identify animals infected with the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) agent. This stimulated research in the field of prion diagnosis and led to the establishment of numerous so-called "rapid tests" which have been in use in Europe since 2001 for monitoring at-risk populations (rendering plants) and animals slaughtered for human consumption (slaughterhouse). These rapid tests have played a critical role in the management of the mad cow crisis by allowing the removal of prion infected carcasses from the human food chain, and by allowing a precise epidemiological monitoring of the BSE epizootic. They are all based on the detection of the abnormal form of the prion protein (PrP$^{\rm Sc}$ or PrP $^{\rm res})$ in brain tissues and consequently are only suitable for post-mortem diagnosis. Since it is now very clear that variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) can be transmitted by blood transfusion, the development of a blood test for the diagnosis of vCJD is a top priority. Although significant progress has been made in this direction, including the development of the protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA) technology, at the time this paper was written, this objective had not yet been achieved. This is the most important challenge for the years to come in this field of prion research.

Key words: TSE diagnosis / PrP / blood test / PMCA

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© INRA, EDP Sciences 2008