Disease experts calm fears of BSE in sheep

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The Independent Online

Scientists believe that test results which sparked fears that a form of BSE, so-called "mad cow disease", had spread to British sheep are important but not conclusive.

Scientists believe that test results which sparked fears that a form of BSE, so-called "mad cow disease", had spread to British sheep are important but not conclusive.

Initial results in the tests, published two years ago, found that 52 samples out of nearly 30,000 showed signs of scrapie - but a double-check test failed to back up those findings, leaving 28 samples unclassified. Experts are assessing whether the testing method was flawed, whether the original results of scrapie - a naturally occurring BSE-like sheep disease not believed to threaten humans - was correct, or whether the samples were BSE-infected. The test used initially is formally approved by the EU for use on cattle, not sheep.

The spongiform encephalopathy advisory committee met this week to discuss the findings and agreed it was vital to resolve the discrepancies.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of BSE, has killed 136 people in Britain.

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