J Vet Sci.  2015 Jun;16(2):179-186. 10.4142/jvs.2015.16.2.179.

Classical natural ovine scrapie prions detected in practical volumes of blood by lamb and transgenic mouse bioassays

  • 1Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6630, USA. rohana1@vetmed.wsu.edu
  • 2Animal Disease Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Pullman, WA 99164-6630, USA.
  • 3Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Science, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD 57007, USA.


Scrapie is diagnosed antemortem in sheep by detecting misfolded isoforms of prion protein (PrP(Sc)) in lymphoid follicles of the rectal mucosa and nictitating membranes. Assay sensitivity is limited if (a) the biopsy is collected early during disease development, (b) an insufficient number of follicles is collected, or (c) peripheral accumulation of PrP(Sc) is reduced or delayed. A blood test would be convenient for mass live animal scrapie testing. Currently approved techniques, however, have their own detection limits. Novel detection methods may soon offer a non-animal-based, rapid platform with detection sensitivities that rival the prion bioassay. In anticipation, we sought to determine if diseased animals could be routinely identified with a bioassay using B lymphocytes isolated from blood sample volumes commonly collected for diagnostic purposes in small ruminants. Scrapie transmission was detected in five of six recipient lambs intravenously transfused with B lymphocytes isolated from 5~10 mL of blood from a naturally scrapie-infected sheep. Additionally, scrapie transmission was observed in 18 ovinized transgenic Tg338 mice intracerebrally inoculated with B lymphocytes isolated from 5~10 mL of blood from two naturally scrapie-infected sheep. Based on our findings, we anticipate that these blood sample volumes should be of diagnostic value.


B lymphocytes; blood; prions; scrapie; Tg338 mice
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