National Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies Surveillance Program (NTSESP)

Page last updated: Monday, 8 July 2019 - 10:29am

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

The National TSE Surveillance Program (NTSESP) conducts surveillance for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease) in cattle and scrapie in sheep.

BSE and scrapie do not occur in Australia, but Australia is required to have a surveillance program to provide assurance that BSE and scrapie do not occur.

Producers and veterinarians who have suitable cattle and sheep autopsied under the program may claim a rebate.

Are you looking for the NTSESP claim forms? See the forms webpage.

What are TSEs?

Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) are progressive and fatal neurological diseases of animals. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy of cattle (BSE or mad cow disease) and scrapie of sheep are the best known animal TSEs. Animals with these diseases do not respond to treatment and all affected animals die.

BSE and scrapie do not occur in Australia. To continue to be classified as 'free of BSE and scrapie' and to maintain access to international markets, Australia must have a surveillance program to detect cases of BSE and scrapie if they occur.

What are the signs of TSEs?

Animals with TSEs show neurological signs such as:
  • changes in behaviour
  • gait abnormalities such as 'the staggers'
  • constant trembling
  • increased sensitivity to sound and touch
  • persistent itchiness in sheep.

History of BSE and scrapie

BSE was first recognised in the United Kingdom in the 1980s.

BSE has only ever been transmitted to cattle or other ruminants by feeding infective material, such as meatmeal prepared from BSE-affected livestock. Feeding meatmeal to cattle or other ruminants is prohibited in Australia.

If BSE occurred in Australia it would result in major disruptions to domestic and export trade in cattle and cattle products.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) is a recognised human TSE. A new form of this disease called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) is thought to be linked to humans consuming BSE-infected cattle.

Scrapie has been recognised since the eighteenth century. Scrapie can be transmitted to other sheep by contact with infected sheep and the properties where they graze.