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Prion protein gene polymorphisms in classical scrapie-affected flocks of sheep in Central Macedonia

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The allele and genotype frequency distributions of the prion protein gene polymorphisms at codons 136, 154 and 171 were determined by real-time PCR for 1,456 sheep from 7 classical scrapie-affected flocks of Thessaloniki and Imathia, Central Macedonia, Greece. The blood samples were collected by official veterinarians and were examined by the National Reference Laboratory (NRL) for TSEs, Veterinary Laboratory of Larisa, Greece, in the framework of the National Program for Scrapie Surveillance and Control between 2009 and 2013. Among the 1,456 sheep, 340 were of Chios breed, 633 Chios crossbred and 483 crossbred. The examined sheep showed high genotype variability, as a total of 7 haplotypes and 23 different genotypes were found. The predominant allele and the predominant genotype were ARQ and ARQ/ARQ respectively, in all breeds studied, followed by the ARR allele and the ARR/ARQ genotype. The TRQ allele was frequent in Chios and Chios crossbred, while the VRQ allele was rare for all the breeds. Interestingly, 3 genotypes (ARH/TRQ, ARR/ARK and ARK/VRQ) were detected for the first time in Greece and two of them (ARH/TRQ and ARK/VRQ) have, to our knowledge, never been previously reported. Furthermore, it is emphasized that our country outnumbers all European countries in classical scrapie cases of sheep every year. Therefore, there is an urgent need to reduce the incidence of classical scrapie through the implementation of selective breeding programs. This is supported by the fact that the prevalence of classical scrapie in the Greek sheep population is highly associated with the predominant genotype ARQ/ARQ. Therefore, the elimination of the ARQ/ARQ and the other susceptible genotypes (belonging to Risk Groups 3 and 5, according to the National Scrapie Plan of Great Britain) would reduce dramatically the incidence of classical scrapie in Greece.


PrP gene polymorphisms; scrapie; Real-time PCR

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