CWD Live Test Research Update

December 20, 2013

In response to the recent Wisconsin CWD finding, during the December ACA Council meeting, leaders discussed long term goals of coping with CWD that included working toward a live CWD test and CWD vaccine.  Barry Chernuka, councilman for the Alberta Elk Commission, and Ian Thorleifson, councilman for the Canadian Cervid Alliance, updated the ACA council regarding the CWD vaccine stating the project was well underway with sufficient funding.  In discussing possibilities of a live CWD test, Barry Chernuka mentioned that a CWD infected elk herd in Canada will be depopulated shortly after the first of the year.

The ACA council members realized the need to act as soon as possible in order to retrieve samples from this infected herd that could be instrumental in this necessary research.  The council directed Laurie Seale and Barry Chernuka to coordinate in order to retrieve the samples prior to the herd's depopulation.
In order to raise the necessary revenue to assist in the cost of securing the much needed samples, a news release outlining the ACA's suggestion for raising this money was sent to the industry.  There is a herd in the United States in which we would also like to retrieve blood, tonsil and rectal tissues. If the industry is serious about finding a live test for CWD, this fundraising project will be the first phase in securing naturally infected CWD tissues for future research.
The second phase of this project is selecting a research facility that has proven experience working on a live test.  Colorado State University (CSU) recently released a research paper that shows promise for a possible live CWD screening test.  The sensitivity and specificity of this particular blood test appears to be very high when compared to the rectal biopsy CWD test.  CSU is currently conducting research to determine at what stage the blood test is able to detect the CWD infection in experimentally infected animals.
The ACA is interested in hearing from anyone that may have more information on other CWD blood test research being conducted that would benefit the industry.  The industry needs to be sure to utilize the industry's money as wisely as possible.  There has been research conducted over the past 10 years using tonsil and rectal biopsy tissues, but those live tests are very invasive and not as humane as a simple blood test. It only makes sense to financially support blood test research at this time.  The CWD vaccine research being conducted in Canada has secured the additional funding to finish their current study, but could be years from having a vaccine approved for CWD prevention.

There are those who have reservations about the blood test research, but one thing is certain; if research doesn't go forward deer and elk farmers will continue to destroy valuable, healthy animals to prove they do not have the disease.  The cervid industry has been forced to kill far more animals in the name of regulatory oversight than this dreaded disease will ever kill on its own.

Research takes money and the cervid industry has to take the lead and secure that funding in order to facilitate the process.  More details will be forthcoming as soon as we know more.

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