Scrapie - Advisory Notes for Farmers (PB9446)

‘Genotyping’: What is it, and how can it help me?

Studies have shown that there is a gene in sheep that determines whether an animal is likely to develop scrapie if exposed to infection. Certain sheep, if exposed to scrapie, are therefore more likely to get the disease than others. Goats appear to be more uniformly susceptible, but the same gene may control the time it takes for clinical signs to show. So, by careful record keeping and a strict breeding plan, it is possible to reduce the number of cases in a flock by selectively breeding to produce sheep which are least likely to get the disease. It is possible to identify resistant or susceptible sheep by a blood test. This test, on a small blood or tissue sample, is called ‘genotyping’ and the result is known as the ‘genotype’ of the animal.

Genotyping and breeding for resistance were recommended by the European Union Scientific Steering Committee and the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee and is also endorsed by the Food Standards Agency as a valuable tool in the control of scrapie.

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