Research team finds additional CWD prions at Beltrami County deer farm landfill site

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In early April, the Minnesota Animal Health Board confirmed that a 3-year-old white-tailed doe on a Beltrami County deer farm tested positive for CWD. The most northerly case in Minnesota, the deadly deer disease had been confirmed in Minnesota.

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According to a press release from the U of M, university scientists found the prions causing CWD in a single sample of bone marrow, using a technology known as RT-QuIC which can be used to identify prions. of CWD in carcasses and in the environment.

Faster and more accurate tests that can be used on a wide variety of sample types are essential to improve efforts to limit the spread of CWD, a transmissible neurological disease that is still fatal to white-tailed deer, the researchers said. scientists.

“It’s a rapidly changing situation. We are pleased to have been able to assist our staff at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health and the US Department of Agriculture with the RT-QuIC testing of carcasses, ”Peter Larsen, who led the team and co -Direct the University’s Minnesota Center for Prion Research and Awareness (MNPRO), said in a press release. “Our work is helping everyone respond faster by taking action to protect our collective white-tailed deer resources. The identification of a positive carcass in an area frequented by wild white-tailed deer is of great concern. Our MNPRO team is ready to help secure the landfill site to try and prevent CWD from spreading to surrounding wild herds. “

On May 2, the team collected bone, skin, soil and plant samples from the site. Their expertise in deer anatomy and wild animal mortality investigations has enabled them to find servings of 10 or more deer, according to the press release. In addition, their knowledge of the conditions that favor the survival of CWD-responsible prions allowed them to focus on collecting and processing samples obtained from highly deteriorated and desiccated materials with a high probability of retaining the prions of the CWD. months or years after their filing.

The herd at the nearby deer farm was depopulated last week, and samples of these deer have been collected by the US Department of Agriculture for official MDC testing. MNPRO obtained additional research samples from depopulated animals.

Further testing of carcass samples on hand, as well as future collection and analysis of additional samples at the carcass site, is dependent on additional funding from MNPRO, the university press release said.

Following the recent discovery of CWD in Beltrami County, MNR is developing a response plan that will include increased surveillance and a deer feeding ban that will be implemented sometime before the hunting season. deer this fall. Minnesota has documented about 115 cases of CWD in wild deer since the first confirmed report in 2010, according to MNR statistics.

“It’s such a geographic leap to where we’ve seen the disease, and that now means we’re going to have to do surveillance activities in this area surrounding this facility in Beltrami County,” MNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen said last week in an interview with the Herald. “It’s the heart of deer country over there, so it’s worrying and we want to be proactive about it.”

The MNPRO team also recently developed a new test that generates a color change from red for a positive CWD result and blue for a negative result. They named the test “MN-QuIC” to honor the state of Minnesota, where the test was developed. The new test is less expensive than those using traditional equipment and uses field deployable equipment to get preliminary results in just 24 hours. The team is working to obtain a test that could be used at individual stations, thereby reducing bottlenecks during the deer hunting season.

MN-QuIC is another promising tool for rapid sample screening in forensic investigations such as Beltrami County.

Fatal to members of the deer family, collectively referred to as cervids, CWD is transmitted by misfolded prion proteins, the same process that causes scrapie, bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle (sometimes referred to as “bovine disease). mad cow ‘) and sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. The prions responsible for CWD are not alive and can only be destroyed with specialized equipment or strong chemicals, which makes CWD so difficult to mitigate. They can also persist in the environment for years. Progress on CWD could inform other prion-related diseases in humans and animals.

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