The unconventional viruses of the transmissible subacute spongiform encephalopathies (kuru-CJD-GSS-FFI-scrapie-BSE) are nucleants spontaneously generated from host precursor proteins altered to beta-pleated sheet configuration that polymerize into insoluble infectious amyloid fibrils. The de novo conversion to infectious amyloids is facilitated or accelerated by many different point mutations causing amino acid changes, a stop codon, or octapeptide inserts that increase the likelihood of spontaneous conversion to infectious configuration by many orders of magnitude. Similar nucleating induction of configurational change to amyloid probably occurs in other amyloidoses of brain and in systemic amyloidoses. Thus, all amyloids, particularly so-called fibrillar amyloid enhancing factors, may be considered to be infectious scrapie-like agents. These events probably occur extracellularly, thus we are attempting to reproduce them in vitro, even from synthetic polypeptides.