Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A new test to detect scrapie

Scientists at Iowa State University have discovered a way to detect scrapie in sheep using fluorescence spectroscopy. The eyes of sheep infected with scrapie return an intense, almost-white glow when they're illuminated with blue excitation light, says Jacob Petrich.

The accidental discovery occurred while Petrich and his collaborators were developing a fluorescence spectroscopy device used in slaughterhouses to test livestock carcasses for possible E. coli contamination.

The findings suggest technologies and techniques can be developed to quickly and non-invasively test for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Petrich, in fact, is working to develop a testing device.

Petrich and a team of researchers began studying the feasibility of a fluorescence test. The researchers collected 140 eyeballs from 73 sheep. Thirty five of those sheep were infected with scrapie; 38 were not. The researchers took fluorescence readings from various parts of the eyes of all the sheep.

"The bottom line is the scrapie-positive retinas fluoresced like crazy," Petrich said. "And the scrapie-negative ones did not."

Read full article at OptoIQ

Editor's note:  According to Dr. Petrich, the test should work on both live, sedated sheep and intact carcasses.  It should work the same in goats.

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