Background: Ruminant feed containing animal byproduct proteins (ABPs) is prohibited in many countries due to its risk of transmitting prion diseases (PD). In most cases the entire herd is sacrificed, which causes great harm to the producer countries by preventing their exportation of ruminant derived-products. Methods: We used stable isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) of carbon (13C/12C) and nitrogen (15N/14N) to trace the animal protein in the blood of 15 buffaloes (Bubalus bubalis) divided into three experimental groups: 1 - received only vegetable protein (VP) during 117 days; 2 - received animal and vegetable protein (AVP); and 3 - received animal and vegetable protein with animal protein subsequently removed (AVPR). Groups 2 and 3 received diets containing 13.7% bovine meat and bone meal (MBM) added to a vegetable diet (from days 21-117 in the AVP group and until day 47 in the AVPR group, when MBM was removed). Results: On the 36th day, differences were detectable in the feeding profile (p <0.01) among the three experimental groups, which remained for a further 49 days (85th day). The AVPR group showed isotopic rate reversibility on the 110th day by presenting values similar to those in the control group (VP) (p> 0.05), indicating that it took 63 days to eliminate MBM in this group. Total atoms exchange (> 95%) of 13C and 15N was observed through incorporation of the diet into the AVP and AVPR groups. Conclusions: IRMS is an accurate and sensitive technique for tracing the feeding profile of ruminants through blood analysis, thus enabling investigation of ABP use.
Keywords: Prion diseases, Monitoring, Bovine spongiform, Encephalopathy, Stable isotopes.