Deer Industry Works with Scientists to Develop Live-animal Test for CWD
October 6, 2014
Lake News Online
Posted Oct. 6, 2014 @ 4:04 pm
Researchers from state and federal agencies, in cooperation with the American Cervid Alliance (ACA), North American Deer Farmers Association (NADeFA) and individual deer farmers, are working toward a breakthrough in controlling chronic wasting disease (CWD), a brain disease that affects deer, elk and moose.
Researchers from state and federal agencies, in cooperation with the American Cervid Alliance (ACA), North American Deer Farmers Association (NADeFA) and individual deer farmers, are working toward a breakthrough in controlling chronic wasting disease (CWD), a brain disease that affects deer, elk and moose. Groups of scientists from Kansas State University and the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Wildlife Research Center were recently allowed access to quarantined, CWD-positive herds in Iowa and Pennsylvania to collect a variety of samples, including blood, feces, nasal swabs, and tissue biopsies, from live deer prior to euthanasia. The researchers hope to develop an accurate CWD test for live animals, which does not currently exist.
“This research is vital in the fight against CWD and the industry’s support is critical to its success,” commented Dr. Nicholas Haley of Kansas State University. “An accurate live-animal test would be an incredible advancement in controlling CWD that would serve deer and elk farmers, hunters, and wildlife and agriculture agencies.”
The samples collected will be evaluated in an effort to identify which sample and testing strategy is the most useful for diagnosis in live animals of CWD. The development of a live-animal test may eventually allow identification of CWD-infected animals under quarantine without the need for euthanasia and large-scale culling of animals, though this capability is a “number of years off,” said Dr. Haley.
Chronic wasting disease is similar to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow” disease) and human Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Currently, diagnosis of such prion diseases requires collection of tissue samples after death. A live-animal test would make CWD much easier to detect and, therefore, significantly easier to reduce its prevalence both in farmed deer and elk herds and in free-ranging deer and elk populations.
“The deer and elk industry is proactive in fighting CWD,” said Charly Seale of the American Cervid Alliance. “No one wants CWD around, and we are determined to do whatever we can to control and prevent the disease.”
Dr. Haley’s work would not be possible without the help and cooperation of Pennsylvania Deer Farmers board member Glen Dice, who did logistical work setting up the research with the Pennsylvania herd, and Tom and Rhonda Brakke, Iowa farmers who insisted that research be done on their herd.
The American Cervid Alliance represents the country’s deer and elk farmers.