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Biodegradation of specified risk material and fate of scrapie prions in compost

Xu, S., Reuter, T., Gilroyed, B.H., Dudas, S., Graham, C., Neumann, N.F., Balachandran, A., Czub, S., Belosevic, M., Leonard, J.J., McAllister, T.A. (2013). Biodegradation of specified risk material and fate of scrapie prions in compost, 48(1), 26-36.


Composting may be a viable alternative to rendering and land filling for the disposal of specified risk material (SRM) provided that infectious prion proteins (PrPTSE) are inactivated. This study investigated the degradation of SRM and the fate of scrapie prions (PrPSc) over 28days in laboratory-scale composters, with and without feathers in the compost matrices. Compost was mixed at day 14 to generate a second heating cycle, with temperatures exceeding 65C in the first cycle and 50C in the second cycle. Approximately 63% and 77% of SRM was degraded after the first and second cycles, respectively. Inclusion of feathers in the compost matrices did not alter compost properties during composting other than increasing (P < 0.05) total nitrogen and reducing (P < 0.05) the C/N ratio. However, addition of feathers enhanced (P < 0.05) SRM degradation by 10% upon completion of experiment. Scrapie brain homogenates were spiked into manure at the start of composting and extracted using sodium dodecyl sulphate followed by detection using Western blotting (WB). Prior to composting, PrPSc was detectable in manure with 1-2 log10 sensitivity, but was not observable after 14 or 28days of composting. This may have been due to either biological degradation of PrPSc or the formation of complexes with compost components that precluded its detection. © 2013 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

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