Wildlife Disease and Zoonotics


Date of this Version



Published in J Vet Diagn Invest 17:276–281 (2005)


This communication reports final observations on experimental transmission of chronic wasting disease (CWD) from mule deer to cattle by the intracerebral route. Thirteen calves were inoculated intracerebrally with brain suspension from mule deer naturally affected with CWD. Three other calves were kept as uninoculated controls. The experiment was terminated 6 years after inoculation. During that time, abnormal prion protein (PrPres) was demonstrated in the central nervous system (CNS) of 5 cattle by both immunohistochemistry and Western blot. However, microscopic lesions suggestive of spongiform encephalopathy (SE) in the brains of these PrPres-positive animals were subtle in 3 cases and absent in 2 cases. Analysis of the gene encoding bovine PRNP revealed homozygosity for alleles encoding 6 octapeptide repeats, serine (S) at codon 46, and S at codon 146 in all samples. Findings of this study show that although PrPres amplification occurred after direct inoculation into the brain, none of the affected animals had classic histopathologic lesions of SE. Furthermore, only 38% of the inoculated cattle demonstrated amplification of PrPres. Although intracerebral inoculation is an unnatural route of exposure, this experiment shows that CWD transmission in cattle could have long incubation periods (up to 5 years). This finding suggests that oral exposure of cattle to CWD agent, a more natural potential route of exposure, would require not only a much larger dose of inoculum but also may not result in amplification of PrPres within CNS tissues during the normal lifespan of cattle.