U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Published in The Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research 2010;74:50–53.


Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) of Rocky Mountain elk in North America. Recent studies suggest that tissue and blood mineral levels may be valuable in assessing TSE infection in sheep and cattle. The objectives of this study were to examine baseline levels of copper, manganese, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and molybdenum in the brains of Rocky Mountain elk with differing prion genotypes and to assess the association of mineral levels with CWD infection. Elk with leucine at prion position 132 had significantly lower magnesium levels than elk with 2 copies of methionine. Chronic wasting disease-positive elk had significantly lower magnesium than control elk. The incorporation of manganese levels in addition to magnesium significantly refined explanatory ability, even though manganese alone was not significantly associated with CWD. This study demonstrated that mineral analysis may provide an additional disease correlate for assessing CWD risk, particularly in conjunction with genotype.