Researchers in Canada have developed a blood test that can diagnose chronic wasting disease (CWD) in elk and believe it may eventually provide a cheap way to screen cattle for BSE.

The test looks for signs of damaged cells in the blood, the researchers reported in the journal Nucleic Acids Research. “We can now take a blood sample from a live animal and look at the DNA patterns in the blood and predict six months ahead of time whether an animal is infected with chronic wasting disease,” Christoph Sensen of the University of Calgary told Reuters.
Rather than looking for prions, they studied circulating nucleic acids – little bits of DNA that get spat out when distressed cells die. Sensen said it will take four years to replicate the findings in cattle.