Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies

Part of: Statutory animal disease testing

Area of Expertise:

Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE) surveillance for Northern Ireland is undertaken by the Chemical and Immunodiagnostic Sciences Branch (CISB) in the Veterinary Sciences Division of AFBI.

What are TSEs?

TSEs are neurodegenerative diseases affecting a number of animal species and humans. Animal TSEs include: bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), scrapie and chronic wasting disease, affecting cattle, sheep/goats and deer respectively.

The TSEs affecting farm animals are notifiable diseases.

Surveillance and eradication

All animal TSE testing in Europe is carried out in accordance with EU Regulation EC999/2001 (and amendments). This legislation outlines the measures to be taken for the prevention, control and eradication of these diseases in cattle, sheep and goats.

The Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 is the domestic legislation enforcing EC999/2001.  Both Passive and Active Surveillance of cattle, sheep, goats and deer is undertaken as part of the surveillance and eradication programme.

The programme is risk based and targets ante mortem failure/emergency slaughter/fallen cattle, fallen sheep/goats and human consumption sheep.


Samples of brain tissue are taken at abattoir, rendering plants and VSD post mortem.  These samples are then tested at VSD using a high throughput rapid screening test.  Confirmatory testing, if required on non-negative screening test samples, is carried out using a Western Blot test.

The laboratory is accredited to ISO17025 for the screening and confirmatory test methods.  This accreditation ensures that the testing is carried out to the highest standard.

The laboratory also participates in inter-laboratory external proficiency testing schemes to ensure that the test methods are performing reliably.

All of the services of the TSE surveillance unit, including testing, training and advice, are available to world-wide clients.

The laboratories can provide training and advice on all aspects of TSE diagnosis.



Telephone: +44(0)28 9052 5734 (TSE office) or +44(0)28 9052 5791 (main reception)