Active Surveillance to Target BSE

The public perception of BSE has changed dramatically over the last ten years. At first, BSE was thought to be a problem of individual countries such as the U.K. and Switzerland. Meanwhile BSE has been recognized to be a worldwide problem. This change in perception of the disease is the result of improved Surveillance Systems.

A company at the forefront of BSE diagnostics and prion research: Prionics.

In the second half of the 1990s Prionics’ leading prion experts built up active BSE surveillance enabling objective evaluation of the European BSE situation for the first time. For this purpose Prionics developed the first rapid BSE-test for routine use, the Prionics®- Check WESTERN. The success of this surveillance concept led to the establishment of official EU-wide BSE-screening programs in 2001. The preferred test in these programs is still the Prionics®-Check WESTERN, considered by experts to be the most precise BSE test available. This rapid test, now complemented by the Prionics®-Check LIA, has significantly promoted the improvement of preventive consumer protection and at the same time helped to regain consumer confidence in the safety of beef.

What can we do against prion diseases?
As currently no immunization or therapy is available against prion diseases, measures have to concentrate on preventing the transmission of the pathogen. Animals that have a high amount of infectivity though not yet obviously ill with BSE remain a risk for the consumer. Only an ACTIVE SURVEILLANCE program using diagnostic screening tests can prevent such animals from entering the food chain. This measure needs to be complemented by the removal of tissues known to harbour particularly high amounts of infectivity from the food chain.

The first ACTIVE SURVEILLANCE study was carried out by Prionics and the Swiss Veterinary authorities in 1998 and showed that rapid tests identify apparently healthy BSE-cows in normal slaughter preventing them from entering the food chain. It also showed that the prevalence of BSE was highest in fallen stock, and emergency slaughtered animals. This led to the TARGETED ACTIVE SURVEILLANCE model of the 1999 Swiss surveillance program which focuses mainly on the high risk categories such as fallen stock but also includes a certain percentage of normal slaughtered animals. The Targeted Active Surveillance model is now the standard for a minimum BSE-surveillance as recommended by the United Nations.

BSE: a global threat.

In the early 1990s BSE was uncovered in single countries like the UK or Switzerland. No one suspected the whole dimension of the disease at this time. Some ten years later most of Western Europe’s countries reported first cases of BSE and the WHO warned that the disease is likely to represent a global problem. This suspicion was enhanced only a few months later when in the Czech Republic the first BSE case outside of Western Europe was revealed with the Prionics®-Check rapid test. The announcement of the first North American BSE case detected in Canada prompted the United Nations to urge all countries to adopt an Active Surveillance plan. Find an overview on the Milestones of Active BSE-Surveillance on:

The book of TSEs is by no means closed. On the contrary, science has only just begun to understand the global impact of prion diseases. Prionics as the leading company in the field of prion diagnostics is aware of its responsibility to human and animal health and attaches therefore great importance to the quality of its products. The company’s philosophy is to stay at the pulse of scientific insights, technical improvements and laboratory practice.