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An Investment in CWD Research

“Alberta Environment and Parks is partnering with Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Environment and the Alberta Conservation Association on a project led by researchers from four universities in western Canada. The project will examine five potential antigens and two different oral delivery platforms to help prevent the spread of CWD. – Government of Alberta News Release.

“The ongoing spread of CWD through wildlife populations threatens a natural resource of considerable economic, ecological and social importance. An effective oral vaccine for CWD would complement other science-based strategies to limit the prevalence and spread of CWD in wildlife populations in Alberta and beyond.” – Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks.

“CWD poses a significant risk to the future of wildlife resources across Alberta, Saskatchewan and other jurisdictions. With this funding commitment, the Alberta Conservation Association, on behalf of the hunters and anglers of Alberta, has drawn together the top researchers in the field of CWD vaccine development. Through this collaboration, we are optimistic that this project can make significant strides towards providing a new management option for controlling CWD in wild cervid populations.” – Todd Zimmerling, CEO, Alberta ConservationAssociation.

The governments of Saskatchewan ($400,000), Alberta ($381,000), and the Alberta Conservation Association ($500,000) are providing nearly $1.3 million in funding toward the research and development of a vaccine for chronic wasting disease over the next five years.

After this announcement, four days later, to the tune of $1.25 million, Alberta Innovates announced it too would be investing “in research to understand and address the increasing spread of chronic wasting disease.”

On the same day, Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR) also announced they too will “invest a total of $521,000 into two critical chronic wasting disease (CWD) projects led by researchers from the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary.”

Combined, more than $3 million is being invested into CWD research in Alberta and Saskatchewan. This is on top of the $500,000 Alberta Environment and Parks spends annually for CWD monitoring and testing. Approximately 11,000 heads from deer, elk and moose are tested yearly in Alberta. The test results show that the “positivity rate in hunted mule deer tested in Alberta is nearly 15 percent and is increasing.” Which is a significant number and a significant concern.

RDAR’s worry is the impact CWD has and might have on the agriculture industry moving forward. Some countries have already banned hay imports from CWD endemic areas, such as Alberta and Saskatchewan. Other research will “investigate the transmissibility of CWD to economically important species such as cattle and pigs and assess the risk CWD poses to agriculture, the crop industry, and public health.”

The research being funded by Alberta, Saskatchewan and the ACA is to “examine five potential antigens and two different oral delivery platforms to help prevent the spread of CWD.”

According to the press release, “Control of CWD in wildlife depends on the development of an oral vaccine that can be broadly and efficiently distributed in the environment via forage.” And, “Once a successful vaccine is developed, additional research is required to investigate how to provide an oral form that wild deer could consume.”

Here’s hoping that a significant breakthrough is discovered through this funding. ■

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