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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Scrapie infectivity is quickly cleared in tissues of orally-infected farmed fish

Loredana Ingrosso1, Beatriz Novoa2, Andrea Z Dalla Valle3, Franco Cardone1, Raquel Aranguren2, Marco Sbriccoli1, Simona Bevivino1, Marcello Iriti4, Quanguo Liu1, Vito Vetrugno1, Mei Lu1, Franco Faoro4, Salvatore Ciappellano3, Antonio Figueras2 and Maurizio Pocchiari1*

Author Affiliations

1 Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Department of Cellular Biology and Neuroscience, viale Regina Elena,299,00161 Rome, Italy

2 Instituto Investigaciones Marinas, CSIC, Eduardo Cabello 6, 36208 Vigo, Spain

3 Section of Human Nutrition, Department of Food Science and Microbiology, DiSTAM, University of Milan, via Celoria 2, 20133 Milano, Italy

4 Institute of Plant Pathology, University of Milan and Institute of Plant Virology, CNR, Milano, Italy

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BMC Veterinary Research 2006, 2:21  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-2-21

Published: 15 June 2006



Scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) belongs to the group of animal transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). BSE epidemic in the UK and elsewhere in Europe has been linked to the use of bovine meat and bone meals (MBM) in the feeding of cattle. There is concern that pigs, poultry and fish bred for human consumption and fed with infected MBM would eventually develop BSE or carry residual infectivity without disease. Although there has been no evidence of infection in these species, experimental data on the susceptibility to the BSE agent of farm animals other than sheep and cow are limited only to pigs and domestic chicken. In the framework of a EU-granted project we have challenged two species of fish largely used in human food consumption, rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and turbot (Scophthalmus maximus), with a mouse-adapted TSE strain (scrapie 139A), to assess the risk related to oral consumption of TSE contaminated food. In trout, we also checked the "in vitro" ability of the pathological isoform of the mouse prion protein (PrPSc) to cross the intestinal epithelium when added to the mucosal side of everted intestine.


Fish challenged with a large amount of scrapie mouse brain homogenate by either oral or parenteral routes, showed the ability to clear the majority of infectivity load. None of the fish tissues taken at different time points after oral or parenteral inoculation was able to provoke scrapie disease after intracerebral inoculation in recipient mice. However, a few recipient mice were positive for PrPSc and spongiform lesions in the brain. We also showed a specific binding of PrPSc to the mucosal side of fish intestine in the absence of an active uptake of the prion protein through the intestinal wall.


These results indicate that scrapie 139A, and possibly BSE, is quickly removed from fish tissues despite evidence of a prion like protein in fish and of a specific binding of PrPSc to the mucosal side of fish intestine.