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An analysis is presented of the results of a cohort study designed to test whether or not the aetiological agent of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle can be transmitted maternally (vertically) from dam offspring. Various genetic models are fitted to the data under the assumption that the results could be explained entirely by genetic predisposition to disease (as opposed to maternal transmission) given exposure of offspring of diseased and unaffected dams to contaminated cattle feed. The analyses suggest that the results could be explained by the hypothesis of genetic predisposition, provided a large difference exists in the susceptibility of resistant and susceptible hosts, and explore the range of genotypic parameters and frequencies consistent with the limited currently available data. The results presented are broadly robust, even under the scenario that a portion of the observed maternally enhanced risk of BSE is due to a low level of maternal transmission in late incubation stage dams.

Original publication




Journal article


Proceedings. Biological sciences

Publication Date





1445 - 1455


Wellcome Trust Centre for the Epidemiology of Infectious Disease, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, UK.


Animals, Cattle, Encephalopathy, Bovine Spongiform, Risk Factors, Cohort Studies, Disease Outbreaks, Pregnancy, Alleles, Models, Genetic, Female, Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical, United Kingdom