A quantitative assessment of the prion risk associated with wastewater from carcase-handling facilities

A. Adkin, Neil Donaldson, Louise Kelly

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Wastewater from facilities processing livestock that may harbor transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) infectivity is permitted under license for application to land where susceptible livestock may have access. Several previous risk assessments have investigated the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) associated with wastewater effluents; however, the risk of exposure to classical scrapie and atypical scrapie has not been assessed. With the prevalence of certain TSEs (BSE in cattle and classical scrapie in sheep) steadily in decline, and with considerable changes in the structure of carcase-processing industries in Great Britain, a reappraisal of the TSE risk posed by wastewater is required. Our results indicate that the predicted number of new TSE infections arising from the spreading of wastewater on pasture over one year would be low, with a mean of one infection every 1,000 years for BSE in cattle (769, 555,556), and one infection every 30 years (16, 2,500), and 33 years (16, 3,333) for classical and atypical scrapie, respectively. It is assumed that the values and assumptions used in this risk assessment remain constant. For BSE in cattle the main contributors are abattoir and rendering effluent, contributing 35% and 22% of the total number of new BSE infections. For TSEs in sheep, effluent from small incinerators and rendering plants are the major contributors (on average 32% and 31% of the total number of new classical scrapie and atypical scrapie infections). This is a reflection of the volume of carcase material and Category 1 material flow through such facilities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1212-1227
Number of pages16
JournalRisk Analysis
Issue number7
Early online date5 Nov 2012
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013


  • abattoir
  • bovine spongiform encephalopathy
  • QRA
  • scrapie
  • TSE
  • mathematical analysis

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