Chronic Wasting Disease Prions in Elk Antler Velvet

Source of Article:


Rachel C. Angers,1 Tanya S. Seward, Dana Napier, Michael Green, Edward Hoover, Terry Spraker, Katherine O’Rourke, Aru Balachandran, and Glenn C. Telling

Author affiliations: University of Kentucky Medical Center, Lexington, Kentucky, USA (R.C. Angers, T.S. Seward, D. Napier, M. Green, G.C. Telling); Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA (E. Hoover, T. Spraker); US Department of Agriculture, Pullman, Washington, USA (K. O’Rourke); and Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (A. Balachandran) 1Current affiliation: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a contagious, fatal prion disease of deer and elk that continues to emerge in new locations. To explore the means by which prions are transmitted with high efficiency among cervids, we examined prion infectivity in the apical skin layer covering the growing antler (antler velvet) by using CWD-susceptible transgenic mice and protein misfolding cyclic amplification. Our finding of prions in antler velvet of CWD-affected elk suggests that this tissue may play a role in disease transmission among cervids. Humans who consume antler velvet as a nutritional supplement are at risk for exposure to prions. The fact that CWD prion incubation times in transgenic mice expressing elk prion protein are consistently more rapid raises the possibility that residue 226, the sole primary structural difference between deer and elk prion protein, may be a major determinant of CWD pathogenesis.


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