BSE research received a much-needed funding boost last week. On Friday, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced that USDA's Agricultural Research Service has redirected nearly $2 million in funding to be used for new BSE projects and facilities and build upon President Bush's fiscal year 2006 budget proposal, which would increase BSE research by $7.3 million or 155 percent over 2005 funding levels.
The newly funded projects include international collaborations with the Veterinary Laboratory Agency in Great Britain to study the biology of the BSE agent, the Italian BSE Reference Laboratory to evaluate present diagnostic tools for detecting atypical BSE cases and the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain to compare North American and European BSE strains.
About $750,000 will go toward a biocontainment facility now under construction at the ARS National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa. These facilities will eventually allow the long-term study of BSE infection in cattle and other large animals, which can take a decade or more.
USDA's Agricultural Research Service has been a leader in research on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) such as scrapie, which affects sheep, and chronic wasting disease in deer. ARS developed the immunohistochemistry test that is currently used as the gold standard in the United States to confirm a diagnosis of BSE. ARS has an annual budget of nearly $10 million for TSE research and 15 scientists involved in the research, primarily in Ames; Pullman, Wash., and Albany, Calif.