Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAPA) announced Monday that it is investigating a suspected case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Samples have already been submitted to the OIE Reference Laboratory for BSE at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to confirm whether the animal has the disease. Additionally, MAPA said all measures are being adopted by governments and that the appropriate actions will be applied immediately if the animal is positive.
The discovery could have significant implications for one of the world’s largest beef exporting countries. In September 2021, Brazil officials confirmed two cases of “atypical” BSE in cows, which triggered a suspension of beef exports to China. The ban of beef imports was in effect for more than three months before China lifted it. China is currently Brazil’s largest beef export market, receiving over half of its exports.
Both the Netherlands and Spain also recently reported one atypical case of BSE.
According to the World Organization of Animal Health, BSE is a disease of the nervous system of cattle, which has a long incubation period between two and eight years, and occasionally longer. There is currently no treatment or vaccine against it.
There are two forms of the disease classical BSE and atypical. Classical occurs through the consumption of contaminated feed, and while it was identified as a significant threat in the 90s, WOAH said the occurrence has markedly decreased over the past years. Atypical BSE, on the hand, is a naturally and sporadically occurring form, which are believed to occur in all cattle populations at a very low rate. These have only been identified in older cattle when conducting intensive surveillance, WOAH explained.