British government scientists have found that brains from sheep with scrapie cause symptoms similar to BSE when injected into cattle brains, the New Scientist reports. The experiment could shed light on the theory that scrapie initially caused BSE - the same theory that caused British authorities to assume, wrongly, for years that BSE would not affect humans. In 1999, the Ministry of Agriculture Farm and Fisheries's (MAFF) Veterinary Laboratories Agency at Weybridge, England fed or injected cattle with scrapie-infected sheep brain. This month, says MAFF, two of the injected cattle developed TSE symptoms. One had received brain from a sheep that had scrapie before 1975, pre-BSE. The other received scrapie brain from after 1990, when some apparently scrapie-infected sheep might actually have had BSE. There are no results yet from cattle fed scrapie brain. The experiments reported last week "do not prove scrapie caused BSE," says Matthew Bayliss, a scrapie expert at the Institute of Animal Health at Compton, England. It has not been reported whether the cows' symptoms and lesions were like BSE, or different. Asked why Britain had not tested the scrapie hypothesis earlier, a spokesman from MAFF said that its priority had been to remove infectious material from the human and animal food chain, not to investigate the origins of BSE. The New Scientist writes that last year the British government's Phillips' Inquiry into BSE said the assumption that BSE was scrapie was the reason those measures were not rigorously enforced, which might have infected millions with vCJD. Source: New Scientist April 27 2001.