From Dr Martin Hugh-Jones

(Re report in the Guardian ) Thanks for forwarding this.

We got an earlier heads-up from "The Scotsman" and "The Guardian" reports but both were so journalistically confused that we decided to just let it ride until harder information was released.

Until there is hard evidence that BSE is occurring in UK sheep --- i.e. in privately owned flocks, not just at various research institutes --- I think such reports should be watched with interest but not concern. When I think back to the 1940s when eating sheep brains was not at all unusual in England -- my mother regularly scrambled them with eggs and we had it on toast, and very nice too -- with the potential for human cases and nothing noted until the mid 1990s and then in relation to bovine TSE, I have personal doubts as to any human risks in this area. Certainly none in relation to scrapie. And if sheep can get BSE it may well be negated as a related zoonosis by their very short lives.

In this instance 30,000 sheep were screened with a yield of a possible 24 with both tests positive, assuming that the second test is reliable. This is less than 1 in 1000 sheep whether they are seeing scrapie or BSE. If the scrapie prevalence is 0.33% (as reported here) one would expect all or most of these 24 positives to be scrapie.

Best wishes,

Martin