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Animal Industry Bureau

Scrapie and Goats

Like sheep, goats can become infected with scrapie. Signs of scrapie in goats are similar to those in sheep. There have been fifteen cases of scrapie in goats reported in the U.S. since 1990. Most cases involve exposure to sheep.

Scrapie Gene Resistance Testing for Goats? Some labs have begun to offer testing for genetic resistance or susceptibility to scrapie for goats, as they have been doing for sheep. With sheep, we know which locations, or “codons”, on the genes give the animal either protection against scrapie (resistance), or vulnerability to infection (susceptibility) if they are exposed to the disease. This genetic testing of sheep has played a major role in the National Scrapie Program, since we are able to designate many animals as resistant to scrapie infection. This means that when we find an infected flock, many of the animals can have a blood test, be determined resistant, and remain in the flock.

Research is currently being done on goats to try to determine which codons might provide resistance to scrapie. So far, it has been found that where sheep have three codons that can vary located in the portion of the gene that determines scrapie resistance, goats have twelve, and we do not yet know what role these may play. Of 400 goats studied so far, all have been “QQ” at the codon 171. If this codon turns out to be the most important factor in determining scrapie resistance/susceptibility in goats as it is in sheep, then all goats are susceptible to scrapie, and it appears that either there are no "RR" scrapie resistant goats, or they are very rare.  But we do not yet know if resistance/susceptibility is determined solely by an “RR” or “QQ” status in goats.

The bottom line is:

1. The labs offer to test for the three codons involved in scrapie resistance in sheep, but we do not yet know if these determine resistance/susceptible in goats, so the results are not useful.

2. So far it appears that all goats may be “QQ” at codon 171.

3. USDA does not currently recognize these results in goats for the purposes of the scrapie eradication program. If a goat herd is found to be scrapie infected, all sexually intact goats would be purchased and euthanized. (Likewise in infected sheep flocks with goats on site; all sexually intact goats are purchased and euthanized).

For producers who have sheep and goats on their premises, a diagnosis of scrapie in their sheep would mean the indemnification and destruction of all of their sexually intact goats. Those who have valuable goats might want to consider not keeping sheep on the same premises, or keeping only sheep that are genetically resistant to scrapie (no QQ sheep) to greatly reduce their risk of scrapie. Also, maintaining a closed herd is a good way to limit the introduction of many diseases, including scrapie.

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