Wildlife Disease and Zoonotics


Date of this Version



Published in The Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research 2010;74:153–156


Molecular genetic data provide powerful tools for genealogy reconstruction to reveal mechanisms underlying disease ecology. White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) congregate in matriarchal groups; kin-related close social spacing may be a factor in the spread of infectious diseases. Spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD), a prion disorder of deer and their cervid relatives, is presumed to be associated with direct contact between individuals and by exposure to shared food and water sources contaminated with prions shed by infected deer. Key aspects of disease ecology are yet unknown. DNA tools for pedigree reconstruction were developed to fill knowledge gaps in disease dynamics in prion-infected wild animals. Kinship indices using data from microsatellite loci and sequence haplotypes of mitochondrial DNA were employed to assemble genealogies. Molecular genealogy tools will be useful for landscape-level population genetic research and monitoring, in addition to epidemiologic studies examining transmission of CWD in captive and free-ranging cervids.