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Open Access Research article

Sparse PrPSc accumulation in the placentas of goats with naturally acquired scrapie

Katherine I O'Rourke1*, Dongyue Zhuang1, Thomas C Truscott1, Huijan Yan2 and David A Schneider1

Author Affiliations

1 Animal Disease Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Pullman WA 99164 USA

2 Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164 USA

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BMC Veterinary Research 2011, 7:7  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-7-7

Published: 1 February 2011

Abstract

Background

Domestic goats (Capra hircus) are a natural and experimental host of scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) of sheep and cattle. Goats are also susceptible to experimental infection with the agents of TSEs of deer and elk (chronic wasting disease) and humans (Creutzfeldt Jakob disease). Distribution of PrPSc, the abnormal prion protein, is similar in the tissues of scrapie-infected sheep and goats but no data are available on the potential shedding of the agent through the placenta, the presumed route of transmission of ovine scrapie. We describe the sparse accumulation of PrPSc in the placentas of goats with naturally acquired classical scrapie in comparison to field cases of classical ovine scrapie.

Results

PrPSc was detected in the shed placentas from a sample of U.S. goats with naturally occurring scrapie, diagnosed by antemortem lymphoid tissue biopsy or identified as high risk progeny of infected dams. PrPSc accumulation patterns in the intact placentome and western blot banding was similar in the caprine and ovine samples. However, levels of PrPSc estimated from ELISA and immunohistochemistry assays were generally lower in goats than in sheep, although wide variation was noted in both species.

Conclusions

PrPSc accumulates in the shed placentas of goats with naturally acquired scrapie. Although these levels were low in most caprine samples, the caprine placenta may contribute to prion contamination of kidding facilities and transmission to co-housed sheep or goats.