Environmental sources of prion transmission in mule deer

Emerg Infect Dis. 2004 Jun;10(6):1003-6. doi: 10.3201/eid1006.040010.


Whether transmission of the chronic wasting disease (CWD) prion among cervids requires direct interaction with infected animals has been unclear. We report that CWD can be transmitted to susceptible animals indirectly, from environments contaminated by excreta or decomposed carcasses. Under experimental conditions, mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) became infected in two of three paddocks containing naturally infected deer, in two of three paddocks where infected deer carcasses had decomposed in situ =1.8 years earlier, and in one of three paddocks where infected deer had last resided 2.2 years earlier. Indirect transmission and environmental persistence of infectious prions will complicate efforts to control CWD and perhaps other animal prion diseases.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Deer*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Female
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Male
  • Palatine Tonsil / chemistry
  • Prions / metabolism*
  • Wasting Disease, Chronic / metabolism
  • Wasting Disease, Chronic / transmission*


  • Prions