Civil and Environmental Engineering


Document Type


Date of this Version



Yuan Q, Eckland T, Telling G, Bartz J, Bartelt-Hunt S (2015) Mitigation of Prion Infectivity and Conversion Capacity by a Simulated Natural Process—Repeated Cycles of Drying and Wetting. PLoS Pathog 11(2): e1004638. doi:10.1371/journal. ppat.1004638


Copyright 2015 Yuan et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.


Prions enter the environment from infected hosts, bind to a wide range of soil and soil minerals, and remain highly infectious. Environmental sources of prions almost certainly contribute to the transmission of chronic wasting disease in cervids and scrapie in sheep and goats. While much is known about the introduction of prions into the environment and their interaction with soil, relatively little is known about prion degradation and inactivation by natural environmental processes. In this study, we examined the effect of repeated cycles of drying and wetting on prion fitness and determined that 10 cycles of repeated drying and wetting could reduce PrPSc abundance, PMCA amplification efficiency and extend the incubation period of disease. Importantly, prions bound to soil were more susceptible to inactivation by repeated cycles of drying and wetting compared to unbound prions, a result which may be due to conformational changes in soil-bound PrPSc or consolidation of the bonding between PrPSc and soil. This novel finding demonstrates that naturally-occurring environmental process can degrade prions.