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On the Hunt for a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

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Science  17 Mar 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5460, pp. 1906-1908
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5460.1906

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Although there is no evidence that scrapie, the ovine counterpart to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or "mad cow disease," can also infect people, the revelation that scrapie probably spawned BSE and its human variant has renewed a campaign to eradicate scrapie from British sheep flocks before it or the mad cow pathogen--perhaps masquerading as scrapie--threatens people. Preliminary findings are providing new clues to risk factors for scrapie infection and have also bolstered previous studies showing that some sheep are endowed with genes that help them resist a scrapie infection, while others have genes that make them highly susceptible--a finding that might allow farmers to breed in resistant genotypes and breed out susceptible ones.