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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Animal Disease Center » Virus and Prion Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #328261

Title: Horizontal transmission of chronic wasting disease in reindeer

item MOORE, SARAH - Orise Fellow
item Kunkle, Robert
item WEST GREENLEE, MARY - Iowa State University
item Nicholson, Eric
item Richt, Juergen
item Hamir, Amirali
item Waters, Wade
item Greenlee, Justin

Submitted to: Emerging Infectious Diseases
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/29/2016
Publication Date: 12/1/2016
Citation: Moore, S., Kunkle, R., Greenlee, M., Nicholson, E., Richt, J., Hamir, A., Waters, W., Greenlee, J. 2016. Horizontal transmission of chronic wasting disease in reindeer. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 22(12):2142-2145. doi:10.3201/eid2212.160635.

Interpretive Summary: Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that occurs in farmed and wild cervids (deer and elk) of North America and was recently diagnosed in a single free-ranging reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus) in Norway. CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) that is caused by infectious proteins called prions that are resistant to various methods of decontamination and environmental degradation. Little is known about the susceptibility of or potential for transmission amongst reindeer. In this experiment, we tested the susceptibility of reindeer to CWD from various sources (elk, mule deer, or white-tailed deer) after intracranial inoculation and tested the potential for infected reindeer to transmit to non-inoculated animals by co-housing or housing in adjacent pens. Reindeer were susceptible to CWD from elk, mule deer, or white-tailed deer sources after experimental inoculation. Most importantly, non-inoculated reindeer that were co-housed with infected reindeer or housed in pens adjacent to infected reindeer but without the potential for nose-to-nose contact also developed evidence of CWD infection. This is a major new finding that may have a great impact on the recently diagnosed case of CWD in the only remaining free-ranging reindeer population in Europe as our findings imply that horizontal transmission to other reindeer within that herd has already occurred. Further, this information will help regulatory and wildlife officials developing plans to reduce or eliminate CWD and cervid farmers that want to ensure that their herd remains CWD-free, but were previously unsure of the potential for reindeer to transmit CWD.

Technical Abstract: Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a naturally-occurring, fatal prion disease of cervids. Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus) are susceptible to CWD following oral challenge, and CWD was recently reported in a free-ranging reindeer of Norway. Potential contact between CWD-affected cervids and Rangifer species that are free-ranging or co-housed on farms presents a potential risk of CWD transmission. The aims of this study were to 1) investigate the transmission of CWD from white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus; CWDwtd), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus; CWDmd), or elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni; CWDelk) to reindeer via the intracranial route, and 2) to assess for direct and indirect horizontal transmission to non-inoculated sentinels. Three groups of 5 reindeer fawns were challenged intracranially with CWDwtd, CWDmd, or CWDelk. Two years after challenge of inoculated reindeer, non-inoculated negative control reindeer were introduced into the same pen as the CWDwtd inoculated reindeer (direct contact; n=4) or into a pen adjacent to the CWDmd inoculated reindeer (indirect contact; n=2). Experimentally inoculated reindeer were allowed to develop clinical disease. At death/euthanasia a complete necropsy examination was performed, including immunohistochemical testing of tissues for disease-associated CWD prion protein (PrPcwd). Intracranially challenged reindeer developed clinical disease from 21 months post-inoculation (months PI). PrPcwd was detected in 5 out of 6 sentinel reindeer although only 2 out of 6 developed clinical disease during the study period (< 57 months PI). We have shown that reindeer are susceptible to CWD from various cervid sources and can transmit CWD to naïve reindeer both directly and indirectly.