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Effect of autolysis on the specificity of bovine spongiform encephalopathy rapid tests

Daniela Meloni*, Katia Varello, Marzia Pezzolato, Elsa Manzardo, Maria C Cavarretta, Francesco Ingravalle, Maria Caramelli and Elena Bozzetta

Author Affiliations

National Reference Laboratory for Animal Encephalopathies, Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale del Piemonte Liguria e Valle d'Aosta, Turin, Italy

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BMC Research Notes 2010, 3:193  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-3-193

Published: 14 July 2010



Routine rapid testing for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) has highlighted some problems with BSE rapid test performance, the most significant being the number of initially reactive samples and the false positive results on autolyzed tissue. This point is important for BSE active surveillance in risk populations, because tissue autolysis is often unavoidable in routine cases. A robust test suitable for use on field material is therefore needed. To date, very limited information regarding the effect of autolysis on the robustness of rapid tests has been documented; therefore, the National Reference Centre for Animal Encephalopathies (CEA) rapid test laboratory selected 450 autolyzed and negative brain stem samples from fallen stock bovines older than 24 months to assess the specificity of four tests approved for BSE active surveillance: Biorad TeSeE, Enfer TSE version 2.0, Prionics® Check LIA, and IDEXX Herd Check BSE Antigen Kit EIA. The samples were graded according to the degree of autolysis and then dissected into five portions, four of which randomly assigned to processing by rapid tests and one to be available for confirmatory Western blot analysis.


The specificity of the four systems was 100% for all three grades of autolysis, while the percentage of initially reactive results was 0.00 (95%CI 0.00-0.82), 0.22 (95%CI 0.006-1.23), 0.44 (95%CI 0.05-1.60), and 0.89 (95%CI 0.24-2.26) for the Biorad TeSeE, the Prionics® Check LIA, the IDEXX Herd Check BSE and the Enfer TSE tests, respectively. No association with the degree of autolysis could be drawn.


The present study demonstrates that the four rapid tests can be considered well-running diagnostic tools regardless of tissue quality; nevertheless, the number of initial reactive samples reported for some systems must not be underestimated in routine testing.

Furthermore the compliance with the reported performance can be guaranteed only when an ongoing high careful batch quality control system is in place.