Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is a prion disease of cattle which was first observed in Great Britain (GB) in 1986. Throughout the subsequent BSE epidemic, cases identified by passive surveillance have shown consistent histopathological, immunohistochemical, biochemical and biological properties. However, since the start of active surveillance in 2001, across Europe and elsewhere, approximately 67 cases with different biochemical characteristics have been identified by Western blotting (WB). These cases fall into two categories; ‘H-type’ (H-BSE) or ‘L-type’ (L-BSE), based on the relatively heavy (H-BSE) or light (L-BSE) mass of the unglycosylated band of the prion protein, as compared with WB against that obtained from classical BSE (C-BSE) cases. Here we report the detection and confirmation of the first four L-BSE cases by active surveillance in GB, two of which were born after the reinforced feed ban of 1996 (BARB cases). These four L-BSE cases were found in relatively old cattle (age range; 11–21 years old) and the carcases did not enter the human food chain or animal feed chains.
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