First case of BSE in a goat confirmed

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has confirmed the first case of the natural infection of a goat with BSE in France. The animal had already tested positive for scrapie, a disease similar to BSE, in an EU-wide testing programme in 2000 and had been slaughtered. Further tests triggered the suspicion that this could be a BSE infection. This suspicion has now been confirmed by the Community Reference Laboratory in England. Tests on more than 12,000 goats, conducted in Germany since 2002, did not produce any signs of BSE infection. The Friedrich Loeffler Institute (Federal Research Institute for Animal Health) and the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment point out that a comprehensive assessment of the risk to health from BSE in goats is not possible on the basis of this one case up to now. At present, neither Institute sees any need to advise against eating products of animal origin from small ruminants. They do, however, recommend increasing the number of tests for BSE in small ruminants.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), also known as Mad Cow Disease, belongs to the group of diseases that also include Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) in man and scrapie in sheep and goats. These diseases lead to a degeneration of brain tissue which takes on a typical spongy appearance. Scrapie has been known for centuries. There is no evidence of transmission to man. BSE infections occurred on a larger scale for the first time towards the end of the 1980s in the United Kingdom. The suspected source of transmission of the pathogen is insufficiently heated meat-and-bone meal.

Cases of human infection then occurred in the United Kingdom where the clinical picture was similar to Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in man. It was, therefore, described as Variant CJD (vCJD). In response to the high incidence of BSE cases in cattle, comprehensive measures were put in place to reduce the risk for consumers. The main safety measures include a ban on feeding animal proteins to food-producing animals, the removal of specified risk material during slaughter and extensive surveillance and control programmes.

It has been established that small ruminants can also be infected in experiments with BSE. Up to now, there are no signs of natural infection. The feeding of meat-and-bone meal is under discussion as the possible cause of the only confirmed case of BSE infection in a goat up to now. The goat in question was already born before the entry into force of the ban on the feeding of meat-and-bone meal. It was slaughtered in 2002.  Thel other animals in the herd were examined, too, but they all tested negative.

In order to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the risk which could result for consumers from the BSE infection of small ruminants, the open scientific questions, including those to do more particularly with pathogen behaviour in goats, need to be clarified. For further information on the BSE risk from small ruminants, BfR draws attention to a series of opinions which the Institute published when it was still the Federal Institute for Consumer Health Protection and Veterinary Medicine, BgVV. The information can be accessed on the BfR website ( under Food Safety/Subject area BSE.

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