All protocols for working with prions must be approved by the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) before work is started. Approved protocols are effective for three years with annual review.

Submit an application to the IBC for working with prions. Follow the IBC step-by-step guidelines to help you complete each section of your application and reduce submission errors. Laboratory space assignment and animal housing biosafety levels must be included as part of the IBC approval process.

A United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) permit is required to receive and work with animal prions. Visit the USDA Permits and Certifications website to apply for a permit. Import includes crossing state lines.

About Prions

There are no known effective treatments or vaccines for prions (also known as Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies or TSEs). It is necessary to handle prions with extreme caution, both for worker protection and for environmental protection. The highest concentrations of prions in infected animals are in the central nervous system and its coverings. Studies indicate that it is likely that  high concentrations of prions may also be found in spleen, thymus, lymph node, and lung tissue.

Types of Prions

  • Scrapie is a prion disease that affects sheep and goats. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a prion disease that affects deer, moose, and elk. There has been no documented evidence that either scrapie or CWD can be transmitted to humans. Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) is a prion disease that normally affects cattle.
  • Cruetzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) is a rare human prion disease. A form of CJD called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) has been diagnosed since 1996 and is thought to be linked to the consumption of meat products derived from BSE-infected cattle. 

For More Information

Biosafety Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (Section VIII-H Prion Diseases)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (Prion Diseases)