A flock of sheep at pasture – a seemingly idyllic scene. But appearances can be deceptive: If the animals are suffering from scrapie, entire flocks may perish. Scrapie is an infectious disease in which prions destroy the animal’s brain, rather like BSE. The brain becomes porous, the sheep lose their orientation, they suffer from strong itching sensations and scrape off their fleece. Eventually, the infected animals die.
It is difficult to contain the disease – all too often, scrapie will break out again on the same farm several months or years after it has apparently been eradicated. Are the prions transmitted not only by direct contact, but also by the environment – perhaps by the pastures? How long do prions that get into the pasture via the saliva and excrements of the sick animals, persist in the ground?
Together with fellow-scientists from the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin and the Friedrich Loeffler Institute (Federal Research Institute for Animal Health) on the island of Riems, research scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME in Schmallenberg investigated these questions on behalf of the German Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety BMU. “We mixed soil samples with scrapie pathogens to find out how long the pathogens would survive,” says Dr. Björn Seidel, who headed the investigations at IME. “Even after 29 months, in other words more than two years, we were still able to detect prions in the soil.”
But are these prions still infectious? “The soil actually seems to increase the infectiousness of the pathogens. The incubation period – the time it takes for the disease to break out – is exceedingly short even after the prions have persisted in the soil for 29 months. All of the animals that were given contaminated soil became sick within a very short time. These results indicate that fresh incidences of scrapie among sheep are due to contaminated pastures,” says Seidel in summary. The results of the study reveal that sheep may even become infected from the surface water, though the risk of infection is much lower in this case. There is no danger to humans, however: scrapie pathogens seem unable to affect them.
Another cause for concern is chronic wasting disease (CWD). Like BSE and scrapie, this is caused by prions, but it mainly affects deer. The numbers of infected animals in North America are rising steeply. How long do BSE and CWD prions survive in the ground? “To find this out, we urgently need to carry out further tests. The appropriate research applications have already been submitted,” says Seidel.
Make way for the mini flying machines
21.03.2018 | American Chemical Society
New 4-D printer could reshape the world we live in
21.03.2018 | American Chemical Society
In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.
Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...
Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.
They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...
A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...
For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.
In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...
Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...
19.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Event News
13.03.2018 | Event News
21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences
21.03.2018 | Life Sciences