Government launches new BSE test for sheep

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The Independent Online

The Government has announced an urgent new test to check sheep for BSE, just days after it emerged that a four-year scientific study was invalid due to cows' brains being used rather than sheeps'.

Professor David King, the Government's chief scientific adviser told the Today programme that the new test could establish in just 38 hours whether an animal has the disease.

"I am rather confident that using this fast technique we will be able to gather a significant amount data in a short period of time," he said, although this was said to be months rather than weeks. The difficulty arises from the similarity to BSE in sheep to the more common disease, scrapie, which occurs naturally in sheep and is not harmful to humans.

Professor King said, "The prion that develops as scrapie in sheep is very similar to the prion that develops as BSE. The experiments we are talking about are very sophisticated and rather difficult. So underlying all this is state-of-the-art and rather difficult science."

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