Levels of abnormal prion protein in deer and elk with chronic wasting disease

Emerg Infect Dis. 2007 Jun;13(6):824-30. doi: 10.3201/eid1306.070186.


Chronic wasting disease (CWD) of deer and elk is a widespread health concern because its potential for crossspecies transmission is undetermined. CWD prevalence in wild elk is much lower than its prevalence in wild deer, and whether CWD-infected deer and elk differ in ability to infect other species is unknown. Because lymphoid tissues are important in the pathogenesis of some transmissible spongiform encephalopathies such as sheep scrapie, we investigated whether CWD-affected elk and deer differ in distribution or quantity of disease-associated prion protein (PrPres) in lymphoid tissues. Immunoblot quantification of PrPres from tonsil and retropharyngeal lymph nodes showed much higher levels of PrPres in deer than in elk. This difference correlated with the natural prevalence of CWD in these species and suggested that CWD-infected deer may be more likely than elk to transmit the disease to other cervids and have a greater potential to transmit CWD to noncervids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Colorado
  • Deer*
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Montana
  • Palatine Tonsil / pathology
  • Prions / analysis*
  • Spleen / pathology
  • Wasting Disease, Chronic / physiopathology*
  • Wasting Disease, Chronic / transmission


  • Prions