Date of this Version
Mule deer fawns (Odocoileus hemionus) were inoculated orally with a brain homogenate prepared from mule deer with naturally occurring chronic wasting disease (CWD), a prion-induced transmissible spongiform encephalopathy. Fawns were necropsied and examined for PrPres, the abnormal prion protein isoform, at 10, 42, 53, 77, 78 and 80 days post-inoculation (p.i.) using an immunohistochemistry assay modified to enhance sensitivity. PrPres was detected in alimentarytract- associated lymphoid tissues (one or more of the following: retropharyngeal lymph node, tonsil, Peyer’s patch and ileocaecal lymph node) as early as 42 days p.i. and in all fawns examined thereafter (53 to 80 days p.i.). No PrPres staining was detected in lymphoid tissue of three control fawns receiving a control brain inoculum, nor was PrPres detectable in neural tissue of any fawn. PrPres-specific staining was markedly enhanced by sequential tissue treatment with formic acid, proteinase K and hydrated autoclaving prior to immunohistochemical staining with monoclonal antibody F89/160.1.5. These results indicate that CWD PrPres can be detected in lymphoid tissues draining the alimentary tract within a few weeks after oral exposure to infectious prions and may reflect the initial pathway of CWD infection in deer. The rapid infection of deer fawns following exposure by the most plausible natural route is consistent with the efficient horizontal transmission of CWD in nature and enables accelerated studies of transmission and pathogenesis in the native species.