Environmental Transmission

It is often cited that CWD can be transmitted via direct animal-to-animal contact or through contact with infectious prions in the environment, with the caveat that we know little about the relative importance of these two modes of infection in free-ranging cervid populations.  Controlled studies using penned animals have shown that susceptible animals may become infected when housed in pens with other infected animals, or when housed in a pen that previously held infected animals.  Susceptible animals became infected with CWD even after the infected animal had been removed and the pen had sat vacant for nearly two years, leading to the conclusion that, not only are infectious prions shed into the environment, but that they may remain infectious for long periods after shedding.  However, the availability of infectious prions and the actual rates of indirect infection in natural environments remain unknown.  The development of technologies for detecting prions in the environment is making such questions more answerable (thanks to a technique call protein cyclic misfolding amplification, or PMCA). 
 
Our research group conducts research to assess the potential levels of prion contamination in the environment, and potential contact with sources of prion contamination both by deer and by other species.  Specific research objective include:

  • Potential for inter-species transmission of prions through environmental contamination

 


Who's exposed to CWD-contaminated deer carcasses?  The better question might be who's not!

Who’s exposed to CWD-contaminated deer carcasses? The better question might be who’s not!

 

 

  • Contact between animals and potential for prion spread around bait stations


Baiting and feeding create attractive areas for deer interactions.

Baiting and feeding create attractive areas for deer interactions.

  • Scraping behavior and the potential to deposit and encounter prions

 


Camera "traps" catch deer behavior at scrape sites.

Camera “traps” catch deer behavior at scrape sites.


lick1-ihp

Could mineral licks and other favorite deer hang-outs be prion pick-up sites?