Host range and environmental transmission of CWD

  • Author / Creator
    Elizabeth, Triscott
  • The geographic range of chronic wasting disease, a fatal prion disease of cervids, is expanding throughout North America and northern Europe. The ecological effects of this highly infectious disease are unclear, as the host range and routes of transmission of CWD are not fully characterized. I infected Syrian Golden hamsters with a number of experimental and hunter harvested CWD isolates in order to compare their host range. There was variability in the ability of specific isolates to infect the hamsters, indicative of CWD strain diversity in free-ranging cervids. Differences were correlated with cervid species, geographical location and the presence of polymorphisms in the prion protein gene. Another important aspect to understand CWD ecology is understanding how infectivity interacts with the environment, and developing methods detecting environmental CWD. To this end, I developed a method of detecting plant-adhered prions. Using this assay, I described how prion-plant interactions differed depending on the species of vegetation. These data suggest that importance of plant consumption of CWD transmission will be dependent on climatic and geographic factors. Contaminated vegetation may not only transmit CWD to naïve deer, but also result in interspecies transmission, putting native species and livestock at risk of contracting prion disease. My technique of detecting vegetation-adhered prions can be developed into a method of monitoring environmental contamination. This thesis expands our knowledge of CWD epidemiology, demonstrating the complexity of prion transmission and the diversity of this fatal neurodegenerative disease.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.