TSE (BSE/Scrapie/CWD)

Transmissible Spongiforme Enzephalopathie

Changed on: 18.03.2021
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Animal disease categories:


TSE is short for animal diseases called 'Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies'. These diseases include BSE, scrapie and CWD and are caused by a pathogenic, heat-resistant prion protein. The prion is also resistant to UV and ionised radiation, and to disinfectants.


BSE was first described in cattle in Great Britain in 1986. Since then, it has spread mainly in Europe. There are also atypical forms of BSE based on spontaneous mutations of the prion protein. A new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans was first diagnosed in 1996. Today it is assumed that BSE is transmitted to humans via food.

Scrapie is a prion disease in sheep and goats that has been known in Europe for centuries. It is not transmissible to humans. Atypical scrapie is a disease of a single animal , the exact nature of which is still being researched, but which also occurs in other countries that are free of classical scrapie.

CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) is a brain disease that occurs in North America in various species of deer and elk, but its significance for humans is not clear yet. In 2016, five cases of CWD were discovered in Norway and thus for the first time in Europe. Since then, cases of CWD have also occurred in Finland and Sweden.


The actual origin of the disease is unknown.

Mode of transmission

The disease is transmitted by feeding cattle meat and bone meal produced from contaminated and insufficiently treated animal carcasses.


Behavioural changes (anxious/aggressive reactions), uncoordinated gait, falling down, abnormal reactions to touch and sound, fear of crossing the manure pit, fear of passages, fear of the smallest obstacles, hypersensitivity to light, muscle trembling.

Situation in Austria

No case of BSE or scrapie was diagnosed in Austria in 2019. Since May 2012 Austria has been classified as a country with a "negligible BSE risk" by the International Animal Health Organisation (OIE). Since 18 November 2014, Austria holds the status "negligible risk of classical scrapie".

Figure 1: Number of samples tested for BSE in Austria


    Figure 2: Number of samples tested for scrapie in Austria


      Professional information

      In 2019, cattle aged 48 months and older which died or were killed in Austria had to be tested for BSE if they were born in Austria, the EU or the United Kingdom. Cattle that were subject to emergency/special slaughtering or killed when slaughtering was banned because of disease had to be tested for BSE from the age of 24 months. Bovine animals from Bulgaria and Romania (no revised monitoring programme), Switzerland and third countries had to be tested from the age of 30 months for normal slaughter and 24 months for all other categories. Testing of younger cattle aged 20 months and older was possible at the expense of the owner of the animals. Within the framework of a risk-based sampling programme, both dead/killed and slaughtered sheep and goats aged 18 months and over were tested for scrapie. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a comprehensive scientific opinion - Chronic wasting disease (CWD) in cervids on 18 January 2017. According to this opinion, a three-year surveillance programme for CWD was established in 2018 in eight European countries (Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland and Sweden).

      Contact, forms

      Institute for Veterinary Studies Mödling - National Reference Laboratory for BSE/TSE /CWD

      Robert Koch-Gasse 17
      2340 Mödling

      Tel: +43 50 555-38112
      E-Mail: vetmed.moedlingno@Spam@agesno.Spam.at

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