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Food Quality and Safety in Europe



With the identification of 10 cases of vCJD (Variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease) in 1996, the potential risk of BSE as a cause of a human fatal disease has been a growing European concern.

The wellbeing of European citizens through better control of food production is the driving force behind the StrainBarrier project. It addresses the urgent need to perform fundamental TSE research into what defines a 'strain' and what causes the so-called 'species barriers'.


The existence of stable strains of prions differing in incubation times, clinical features and neuroanatomical PrPSc (abnormal form of the cellular Prion Protein, or PrPC) is disquieting. Some strains, including BSE, can traverse species barriers causing concerns in the EU.

The StrainBarrier consortium - consisting of partners with proven experimental and industrial achievements - are focusing on studying the molecular biology and comparative characteristics of common TSE strains as well as novel scrapie and BSE strains. The partners expect that the definitions of a 'strain' and what causes the so-called 'species barriers' can then be better established, making it possible for TSE detection and control strategies to be devised.


The StrainBarrier project brings together European scientists with unique competencies and methodological skills in different fields of prion research. Each laboratory involved contributes its distinctive knowledge to this collaborative project. Together with the SME partner they are advancing the understanding of basic structural and molecular underpinnings that confer their distinct character and properties on PrPSc strains. The knowledge obtained is being used to assess and devise further research aimed at developing better diagnostic and control tools to detect, characterise and neutralise different PrPSc strains.

This project is developing a number of innovative technologies and materials that can be used in the future by other researchers in the field. These include new prion strains produced by passage of 'parental' strains to transgenic mice carrying PrP genes from different species. Other techniques are: PK-sen PrPSc from different strains; new strain-specific antibodies, generated by the project's industrial partner; and new cell lines susceptible to infection by a variety of PrPSc strains.

The basic knowledge acquired throughout the initial phases of the project has been used to develop strategies that can be used for a better diagnosis and control.

It is clear that StrainBarrier will contribute to better food quality in Europe, spurring our appetite for more research.

List of Partners

  • Hebrew University of Israel (Israel)
  • The Netherlands Cancer Institute (The Netherlands)
  • Karolinska Institutet (Sweden)
  • University of Santiago (Spain)
  • IP (France)
  • Instituto Nacional de Investigacion y Tecnologia Agraria y Alimentaria (Spain)
  • MabGenics GmbH (Germany)
  • French National Institute for Agricultural Research (France)
  • National Veterinary Institute (Sweden)
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (UK)
Full title:
Understanding prion strains and species barriers and devising novel diagnostic approaches
Contract n:
Project co-ordinator:
Albert Taraboulos, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem,
EC Scientific Officer:
Laurence Moreau,
EU contribution:
€ 2.1M
Specific Targeted Research Project

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top