Chronic Wasting Disease could jump to humans: Research scientist

By Glenn Hicks
November 15, 2017 - 8:00am

Researchers have found fatal Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in deer, elk and even moose, can jump to non-human primates which means it may be able to jump to humans.

“For the longest time it was assumed that this is not something which may have an impact on human health,” Dr. Stefanie Czub, the project leader told paNOW. “But we have some data that this seems not to be the case.”

Czub, who works with the University of Calgary and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, led a team of six research scientists on the study.

Non-human primates are the closest model of species to humans making the discovery a vital piece of research to gain further knowledge into the potential for CWD to make the human jump. The fatal disease affects the nervous system and spreads among ungulates via saliva, urine and feces. Provincial officials are noticing a rise in the disease in Saskatchewan.

Czub’s team was able to infect their non-human test cases with brain tissue and, perhaps more concerning, via another route.

“We were also able to infect non-human primates by feeding muscle tissue from white tailed deer,” she said.

Czub said the big take away from the findings is the need to get hunted animals tested.

“Chronic Wasting Disease is similar to BSE in cows,” she said.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) commonly known as mad cow disease  is a neurodegenerative disease in cattle that may be passed on to humans who have consumed infected flesh.

“A lot of people test but there are still some who think it might not be of importance,” she said. “Testing should really be done.”

Hunters are encouraged to submit the heads of their kills for testing at conservation offices around the province. As previously reported on paNOW the province needs more information on where CWD is and where it may be on the rise. In some Wildlife Management Zones the Ministry of Environment found the rate of CWD in deer can be as high as 43 per cent. But those zones also saw low testing participation.

Hunters are a valuable source of information and Czub said the heads brought for testing will fulfill two vital elements.

“It’s not only something which is related to protecting human health but it’s also important information for the wildlife people.”


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