Review on the epidemiology and dynamics of BSE epidemics

C. Ducrot, D. Calavas, M. Arnold, A.A. de Koeijer, D. Heim

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79 Citations (Scopus)


The paper describes how the comprehensive surveillance of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and studies carried out on these data has enhanced our knowledge of the epidemiology of BSE. Around 7 000 BSE cases were detected through the screening of about 50 million cattle with rapid tests in Europe. It confirmed that the clinical surveillance had a poor capacity to detect cases, and also showed the discrepancy of this passive surveillance efficiency between regions and production types (dairy/beef). Other risk factors for BSE were being in a dairy herd (three times more than beef), having a young age at first calving (for dairy cattle), being autumn-born (dairy and beef), and being in a herd with a very high milk yield. These findings focus the risk on the feeding regimen of calves/heifers. Several epidemiological studies across countries suggest that the feedborne source related to meat and bone meal (MBM) is the only substantiated route of infection ¿ even after the feed ban ¿, while it is not possible to exclude maternal transmission or milk replacers as a source of some infections. In most European countries, the average age of the cases is increasing over time and the prevalence decreasing, which reflects the effectiveness of control measures. Consistent results on the trend of the epidemic were obtained using back-calculation modelling, the R0 approach and Age-Period-Cohort models. Furthermore, active surveillance also resulted in the finding of atypical cases. These are distinct from previously found BSE and classified in two different forms based on biochemical characteristics; their prevalence is very low (36 cases up to 1st September 2007), affected animals were old and some of them displayed clinical signs. The origin and possibility of natural transmission is unknown.
Original languageEnglish
Article number15
Number of pages18
JournalVeterinary Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • bovine-spongiform-encephalopathy
  • creutzfeldt-jakob-disease
  • risk-factors
  • feed ban
  • spatial-analysis
  • great-britain
  • western france
  • clinical signs
  • british cattle
  • cases born

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