Detection and diagnosis of prions, the causative agent for the neurodegenerative transmissible Spongiform Encephalopaties (TSEs) in sheep, cattle and humans - a review

  • Henry Amaechi Onwubiko


The technique to detect and diagnose infectious prions, the causative agent of transmissible spongiform encephalopaties (TSEs) at very early stages of infection where the disease can be controlled and even eliminated has been developed. The technique now in the field is being applied worldwide for the screening of cattle, sheep, rodents, humans and other animals. It has not only saved lives but also billions of dollars in agriculture by preventing the spread of infection in livestock. In the United Kingdom, over 2 million cattle have been destroyed due to prion infection. Prion has also been identified in the United States, and more recently in South Korea. While in Nigeria, many of our cattle and sheep have not been screened and no awareness exist for TSEs. Preliminary work is already underway. Also screening studies are just commencing at a very slow pace in Jos. Given the globalized nature of the present world, where infections move across continents at a rapid pace, it is very disturbing that the nation has no policy and is ill-prepared to respond to it should an epidemic of TSEs break out among its livestock or population. It is necessary to apply this ultrasensitive technique for detection and diagnosis of infectious prions to the screening of livestock, and the protection of Nigerian citizens from TSEs. The technique is also a sensitive tool for studying and uncovering the mechanism of potential drugs that can inhibit or slow down the spread of TSE infection. It will advance the frontiers on the study of the mode of infection and conversion of prions and has significantly already contributed to the new paradigm that has changed our knowledge on infections.

Keywords: Detection, Prions diagnosis, Neurodegenerative, Transmissible spongiform encephalopaties, Sheep, Cattle, Humans

Animal Research International (2012) 9(1): 1515 – 1523

Author Biography

Henry Amaechi Onwubiko
Department of Biochemistry, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, Nigeria

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1597-3115