National TSEs Surveillance Program (including information for veterinarians)

Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) are not known to occur in Australia. The National Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies Surveillance Program (NTSESP) is designed to:

  • demonstrate to countries that import cattle and sheep products that Australia has a negligible risk for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and scrapie
  • satisfy international trading agreements
  • protect public and animal health by ensuring that TSEs are detected early if they occur in Australia.

The NTSESP is jointly funded by industry and the Australian and state and territory governments. It is managed by Animal Health Australia. In Queensland, the program is coordinated by Biosecurity Queensland.

How NTSESP works in Queensland

In Queensland, a biosecurity inspector or veterinarian can submit samples from any animal with clinical signs consistent with a TSE to the Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory for TSE exclusion testing at no cost.

In addition, the NTSESP provides incentive payments to encourage owners and veterinarians to submit samples from eligible cattle and sheep for testing.

To participate in the program, owners identify live cattle and sheep that they believe show clinical signs consistent with TSEs. They then contact a biosecurity inspector or veterinarian who examines the animal to confirm if the signs are consistent with TSEs and if the animal meets the other eligibility criteria for an incentive payment. If so, the animal is then euthanased and samples collected and submitted to Biosecurity Queensland for testing.

Encouraging owners, inspectors and veterinarians to submit samples from eligible cattle and sheep enables Australia to provide strong epidemiological evidence that BSE and scrapie are not present while sampling a relatively small number of animals.

Eligibility criteria for incentives under the NTSESP

To be eligible for testing and an incentive payment under the TSEs program, a case must meet 8 criteria:

  1. Species - only cattle and sheep are eligible for payment.
  2. Live animal examination - the live animal must have been examined by the submitting veterinarian or a biosecurity inspector before euthanasia and sampling.
  3. Age -
    • cattle must be at least 30 months of age but under 9 years
    • sheep must be 18 months of age or older (and preferably under 5 years).
  4. Clinically consistent animal - the animal must show clinical signs that resemble BSE or scrapie.
  5. Sample type and quality - the inspector or veterinarian making a submission must submit complete samples of the correct tissues (brain and spinal cord) for each species that are of diagnostic quality as per the NTSESP sampling requirements (Queensland). Recommended techniques for removing the brain are provided in the TSEs brain removal options (Queensland). Watch this video for a demonstration on one method of collecting NTESP brain tissue.
  6. Completion of 3 required forms - to receive payment, each submission must include:
  7. Independent submitter - the submitting veterinarian or biosecurity inspector must not have a financial or family link to, or any other actual or perceived conflict of interest with, a recipient of a payment arising from the program, or they must satisfy Biosecurity Queensland that a clinically consistent animal could not have reasonably been submitted by an alternative veterinarian or biosecurity inspector with no actual or perceived conflict of interest.
  8. Number of animals - only 1 or 2 animals can be submitted for testing per each disease incident per property.

If you would like an examination conducted by a Biosecurity Queensland inspector or veterinarian, call 13 25 23 to find your closest officer.

You may also receive the incentive payments by asking your private veterinarian to submit samples from eligible cattle and sheep.

Available payments

Owners of eligible cattle or sheep tested as part of the program can claim:

  • cattle - $300 (excluding GST) for each eligible animal
  • sheep - $100 (excluding GST) for each eligible animal.

Private veterinarians who examine cases of nervous disease in cattle and sheep, and submit suitable samples and required documentation for eligible cases to Biosecurity Queensland, can claim the following incentive payments:

  • disease investigation (vet fees) - $200 (excluding GST) for each cow, or $100 (excluding GST) for each sheep
  • collection and documentation - $100 (excluding GST)
  • freight of samples to laboratories - $25 (excluding GST).

If you have an ABN and are registered for GST, the GST amount will be added to your invoice.

Laboratory testing

Samples collected as part of the TSEs surveillance program are tested for TSEs in the laboratory.

Histological examination of brain tissue by trained veterinary pathologists is the primary test for detecting TSEs in Australia. Pathologists look for spongiform changes (sponge-like holes) in brain tissue samples. The absence of these changes indicates that TSEs are not present. Further tests can be done if the histological examination is not conclusive.

In addition, other tests are done to investigate alternative diagnoses.

More information for veterinarians

Veterinarians play a key role in submitting samples to the NTSESP. Information to help veterinarians to submit the required samples in diagnostic condition is provided in:

Veterinarians must also complete and submit the following 3 forms for each animal:

Veterinarians may also find the following information useful:

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