Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs)

Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) are fatal diseases that occur in adult animals and in humans. TSEs occur when abnormal proteins (prions) accumulate in tissue, particularly brain tissue.

The most important TSEs of animals are:

  • bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle ('mad cow disease')
  • scrapie in sheep and goats.

TSEs are present in Europe, the USA, Canada and a few other countries. The risk of TSEs occurring in Australia is negligible.

Australia has established the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies Freedom Assurance Program (TSEFAP) to provide a national approach to TSE. Key elements of TSEFAP are:

These programs demonstrate Australia's continuing negligible risk for BSE and scrapie and help to maintain our access to export markets for livestock products.

Livestock owners and veterinarians have a vital role to play in detecting possible cases of TSEs and preventing the introduction or spread of TSEs.

This guide describes:

  • the main types of TSEs and their signs
  • TSE surveillance and testing of cattle and sheep in Australia (including incentive payments for participating owners and veterinarians)
  • quarantine and surveillance of certain cattle imported to Australia
  • legal bans on feeding restricted animal material (RAM) to ruminants and requirements to label animal feed with a RAM statement
  • monitoring of compliance with the ruminant feed ban.