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Researchers embark on work to control the prion epidemic affecting deer in the USA
Date:5/19/2010

This release is available in Spanish.

Researchers at the Centre for Cooperative Research in Bioscience, CIC bioGUNE, in collaboration with the Universidad de Kentucky (USA), have discovered a new way to control the stability of certain types of prions (the pathogen agents responsible for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies or TSEs) by means of selecting certain proteins. This gives the opportunity to control prion disease in deer, which has become an epidemic in the USA and Canada. The discovery was published last week in the prestigious scientific journal Science.

While the most prevalent prion disease in Europe is scrapie in sheep and goats, together with the epidemic of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, which appeared in the 90s, in the USA, it is the deer prions that are of most concern to the scientific community. Although there is no statistical evidence that deer prions can infect humans, the disease in wild animals is continuously expanding in numerous states in the USA and has already reached some Canadian states.

The chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy that affects pet and wild ungulates. Deer prions infect several types of different deer species, the most common being the mule deer and the Canadian deer. The first signs diagnosed date back to 1967 and were found in a mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus hemionus) held in captivity in Colorado (USA).

Epidemiological data suggest that CWD is a self-sustaining disease and it seems that it can be transmitted horizontally in captive populations. Recent studies indicate that the transmission of prions in wild populations may occur through contaminated urine, faeces and saliva.

Because of the significance of the epidemic, the disease is being researched at the Prion Laboratory at the Proteom
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Contact: Oihane Lakar
o.lakar@elhuyar.com
34-943-363-040
Elhuyar Fundazioa
Source:Eurekalert

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