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PrPSc detection in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue by ELISA

Eric M Nicholson1*, Justin J Greenlee1 and Amir N Hamir12

Author Affiliations

1 Virus and Prion Research Unit, 1920 Dayton Ave., National Animal Disease Center, USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Ames, Iowa 50010, USA

2 M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery-Unit 63, 1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Room TB.4055C, Houston, TX 77030-4009. USA

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:432  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-432

Published: 21 October 2011



Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue is regularly employed in the diagnosis of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) by immunohistochemistry (IHC), the standard by which all other TSE diagnostic protocols are judged. While IHC affords advantages over diagnostic approaches that typically utilize fresh or frozen tissue, such as Western blot and ELISA, the process of fixing, staining, and analyzing individual sections by hand does not allow for rapid or high throughput screening. However, preservation of tissues in formalin is not dependent upon the availability of refrigeration.


Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues from TSE transmission studies of scrapie in sheep, chronic wasting disease in white-tailed deer or transmissible mink encephalopathy in cattle were cut at 5 μm thickness. Samples containing the tissue equivalent of as little as one 5 μm section can be used to readily discriminate positive from negative samples.


This approach cannot replace IHC but may be used along with IHC as both a more rapid and readily high throughput screen where fresh or frozen tissues are not available or impractical.