Wildlife Disease and Zoonotics


Date of this Version



Published in JOURNAL OF CLINICAL MICROBIOLOGY, June 1998, p. 1750–1755 Vol. 36, No. 6


The transmissible spongiform encephalopathies are a heterogeneous group of fatal neurodegenerative disorders occurring in humans, mink, cats, and ruminant herbivores. The occurrence of novel transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in cattle in the United Kingdom and Europe and in mule deer and elk in parts of the United States has emphasized the need for reliable diagnostic tests with standardized reagents. Postmortem diagnosis is performed by histologic examination of brain sections from affected animals. The histopathological criteria for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies include gliosis, astrocytosis, neuronal degeneration, and spongiform change. These lesions vary in intensity and anatomic location depending on the host species and genetics, stage of disease, and infectious agent source. Diagnosis by histopathology alone may be ambiguous in hosts with early cases of disease and impossible if the tissue is autolyzed. Deposition of the prion protein (an abnormal isoform of a native cellular sialoglycoprotein) in the central nervous system is a reliable marker for infection, and immunohistochemical detection of this marker is a useful adjunct to histopathology. In the present paper we describe monoclonal antibody (MAb) F89/160.1.5, which reacts with prion protein in tissues from sheep, cattle, mule deer, and elk with naturally occurring transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. This MAb recognizes a conserved epitope on the prion protein in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded sections after hydrated autoclaving. MAb F89/160.1.5 will be useful in diagnostic and pathogenesis studies of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in these ruminant species.