ONLY $7.00

(includes shipping)

 with Rob Miskosky

Prion Poker

We all know what chronic wasting disease is so I won't regale you with reams of information about it being a “progressive, fatal disease of the nervous system of cervids.” I think we all know that.

However, what many might not know and what they should be concerned about is the possible transmission of CWD to humans. Yes, I have written about this several times in the past and many might consider me a Chicken Little; however, I am here to tell you that chronic wasting disease just became a much larger issue, not only here in Alberta, but clear across North America and beyond.

A study funded by the Alberta Prion Research Institute has demonstrated that CWD can be transmitted to macaques; monkeys genetically closer to humans than other primates.
- photo André Ueberbach
A study led by Dr. Stefanie Czub, a scientist at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and funded by the Alberta Prion Research Institute has “demonstrated that by orally administering material under experimental conditions from cervids (deer and elk) naturally infected with CWD, the disease can be transmitted to macaques.”

What is a macaque you ask? Well, a macaque is a monkey that is genetically closer to humans than other primates, such as squirrel monkeys.

In 2009, 18 macaques were exposed to CWD in different ways: “by injecting into the brain, through contact with skin, oral administration, and intravenously (into the bloodstream through veins).”

To date, results are available from five of the 18 macaques—“two animals exposed by direct introduction into the brain, one that was administered infected brain material by oral administration, and two that were given infected muscle by oral administration have become infected with CWD.”

Because macaque monkeys are genetically similar to humans, these test results should raise concerns, especially among the hunting community and its stakeholders. Testing continues in the remaining macaque monkeys.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), “Since 2003, Canada has a policy that recommends that animals and materials known to be infected with prions be removed from the food chain and from health products. Although no direct evidence of CWD prion transmission to humans has ever been recorded, the policy advocates a precautionary approach to managing CWD and potential human exposure to prions.”

The CFIA also goes on to say, “Currently, CFIA laboratories are leading or collaborating on several research projects to understand the potential for CWD to infect humans.” And, “The results of this study reinforce the need to redesign the federal program to foster greater adoption of risk mitigation measures for farmed cervids.”

Alberta’s CWD surveillance program shows the disease is increasing in wild deer in the southeast and rapidly moving west.

Alberta Environment and Parks are also concerned; have met with Alberta Health, and are evaluating ways to reduce the probability of disease transmission on the landscape through deer management, which could include increased hunter harvest of male mule deer, and/or winter groups to reduce the spread and increase of CWD in deer populations.

According to Alberta’s Director of Wildlife, Matt Besko, “Given the rate of disease prevalence in our deer populations coupled with new evidence to show severe population declines in other jurisdictions, we need to address this issue in a timely manner.”

Considering the estimated cumulative harvest of deer, elk and moose each year in Alberta is 60,000 animals, testing all of them is not possible. Alone, there are approximately 14,000 deer killed each year in the CWD risk areas; however, only 5112 animals were tested for CWD from the 2016/17 hunting season, which means many animals have been consumed without having been tested for CWD.

Prion Poker indeed! ■

For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.

Sports Scene Publications Inc.
10450 - 174 Street, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T5S 2G9
Phone: 780-413-0331 • Fax: 780-413-0388

Privacy Policy

© 2017 Sports Scene Publications Inc. All Rights Reserved