Today in mBio a team of experts issued a new call to action, urging state and federal entities to immediately fund research and develop new diagnostic tests targeting chronic wasting disease, or CWD.
CWD is a prion disease that affects cervids—moose, deer, and elk—and has been found in animals in 26 states, Canada, Scandinavia, and South Korea. The animals, once infected with the misfolded protein, or prion, are highly infectious, and can excrete the prions into their environments. Infection results in neurologic degeneration and ultimately death.
So far, there is no evidence that CWD, which has expanded its US range in wild cervids, can cross species and infect humans, the way bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or “mad cow disease,” another prion disease, did in the 1980s and 1990s. But for many prion researchers, even a small risk of interspecies spread is too much.