Excretion of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy infectivity in urine

Emerg Infect Dis. 2008 Sep;14(9):1406-12. doi: 10.3201/eid1409.080259.


The route of transmission of most naturally acquired transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) infections remains speculative. To investigate urine as a potential source of TSE exposure, we used a sensitive method for detection and quantitation of TSE infectivity. Pooled urine collected from 22 hamsters showing clinical signs of 263K scrapie contained 3.8 +/- 0.9 infectious doses/mL of infectivity. Titration of homogenates of kidneys and urinary bladders from the same animals gave concentrations 20,000-fold greater. Histologic and immunohistochemical examination of these same tissues showed no indications of inflammatory or other pathologic changes except for occasional deposits of disease-associated prion protein in kidneys. Although the source of TSE infectivity in urine remains unresolved, these results establish that TSE infectivity is excreted in urine and may thereby play a role in the horizontal transmission of natural TSEs. The results also indicate potential risk for TSE transmission from human urine-derived hormones and other medicines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cricetinae
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Kidney
  • Mesocricetus
  • PrPSc Proteins / urine*
  • Prion Diseases / transmission
  • Prion Diseases / urine*
  • Urinary Bladder


  • PrPSc Proteins