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OIE Expert Ad Hoc group reviews 'atypical' BSE cases reported by Japan and Italy

An Ad hoc group of world renowned experts, from the OIE Reference Laboratories in the UK, Switzerland and Japan as well as experts from Italy was convened at OIE headquarters on December 4, 2003 to review available data on recently notified atypical BSE cases from Japan and Italy. The experts concluded that they did not believe that the data from these respective countries identified a link between the Japanese and the Italian cases. While acknowledging that the observations reported had not previously been described, further investigations already planned or in progress should clarify their significance. The experts also stressed that even if the data did represent the existence of alternative strains of BSE, this did not necessarily mean that they were new.

The most important relevance of the results of this meeting is that the experts did not believe that the available evidence justified any changes in the current surveillance methods, disease control, or in measure taken to protect human health. Therefore, there was no basis for suggesting that the risk to animals or humans had changed, and that there was no case for the moment for changes to international trade rules.

The experts recommended that existing links between the various OIE Reference Laboratories should be strengthened for a uniformed application of diagnostic methodologies as well as sharing scientific knowledge around the world, and that they will continue to jointly advance the current work on case definition of BSE.

In concluding, they recommended that national laboratories should consult with OIE Reference Laboratories before publishing significant findings that could influence case definition of BSE, or which had potential implications with regard to the protection of human and animal health, or international trade.

These recommendations were immediately endorsed by the OIE' Scientific and Terrestrial Animal Health Code Commissions, which were meeting simultaneously.