The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union have recently published a proposal laying down rules for the prevention and control of certain transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) (1999/C 45/02). The European Community began to adopt a series of measures to protect human and animal health from the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in 1990. These measures are based on the safeguard provisions of Council Directives on vetinary control measures. In response to accumulating evidence that the agent causing BSE is identical to that causing CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease), the Commission has built this most recent proposal on scientific opinions given by the scientific steering committee on vetinary measures related to public health. These opinions include advice on measures to reduce the potential risk to humans and animals resulting from exposure to infected animal products. The proposal calls for a procedure to be established to determine the BSE status of different countries and regions. This will be assessed on the basis of information supplied to the Commission on the incidence, propagation and risk of human exposure in each area. It also requires each Member State to carry out an annual monitoring programme for BSE and scrapie. The results of these monitoring programmes and any emergence of other forms of TSE are to be communicated to the Commission and other Member States. The proposal details guidelines for feeding and slaughter practices to prevent transmission of the disease and proposes the way forward for TSE-related research to minimise the future risk to humans. This will involve the establishment of National and Community reference laboratories, to which samples will be taken for laboratory testing. This is to promote the production of uniform, standardised results. Member States will also be required to establish education programmes for staff and for diagnostic laboratories, veterinarians, farmers and workers involved in transportation, marketing and slaughter of farmed animals. Animal breeders, keepers and handlers will also receive training in order to improve the proposed monitoring system. To control and eradicate TSEs , the Commission proposal states that, where a competent authority decides that the possibility of infection with TSE cannot be ruled out, a suspect animal should be killed and its tissue sent to an approved laboratory for analysis. The proposal sets a protocol for sampling and analysis of tissue that is suspected to be infected with TSE. When the protocol is unobtainable, the Commission recommends researchers refer to the manual of standards for diagnostic tests and vaccines of the International Office for Epizootics (May 1998 edition). Designated national reference laboratories are to be staffed by experts and equipped to show when the disease first appears, as well as the type and strain of TSE. They will also be responsible for confirming results produced by regional diagnostic laboratories. They will also verify diagnostic methods used in regional laboratories and will have responsibility for coordinating diagnostic standards and methods within the Member States. National reference laboratories: - May provide diagnostic reagents to laboratories approved by the Member States; - Shall control the quality of all diagnostic reagents used in the Member States; - Shall periodically arrange comparative tests; - Shall hold isolates of corresponding tissues of, or containing the agents of, the disease from cases confirmed in the Member States; - Will work in cooperation with the Community reference laboratory. Annual tests will look at the histopathology of brain tissue, and use immunocytochemical, and immunodiagnostic tests to detect scrapie-associated fibrils. When TSE occurs in ovine or caprine animals, the tests will be used to identify the strain type of the agent. On a first appearance of the disease, all three tests should be performed, according to the proposal. The regulation shall apply from 1 July 2000.