Experimental chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the ferret

J Comp Pathol. 2008 May;138(4):189-96. doi: 10.1016/j.jcpa.2008.01.004. Epub 2008 Apr 2.


Chronic wasting disease (CWD), a prion disease of North American deer, elk and moose, affects both free-ranging and captive cervids. The potential host range for CWD remains uncertain. The susceptibility of the ferret to CWD was examined experimentally by administering infectious brain material by the intracerebral (IC) or oral (PO) route. Between 15 and 20 months after IC inoculation, ferrets developed neurological signs consistent with prion disease, including polyphagia, somnolence, piloerection, lordosis and ataxia. Upon first sub-passage of ferret-adapted CWD, the incubation period decreased to 5 months. Spongiform change in the neuropil was most marked in the basal ganglia, thalamus, midbrain and pons. The deposition of PrP(CWD) was granular and was occasionally closely associated with, or localized within, neurons. There were no plaque-like or perivascular PrP aggregates as seen in CWD-infected cervids. In western blots, the PrP(CWD) glycoform profile resembled that of CWD in deer, typified by a dominant diglycosylated glycoform. CWD disease in ferrets followed IC but not PO inoculation, even after 31 months of observation. These findings indicate that CWD-infected ferrets share microscopical and biochemical features of CWD in cervids, but appear to be relatively resistant to oral infection by primary CWD inoculum of deer origin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Deer
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Ferrets*
  • Neuropil / metabolism
  • Neuropil / pathology
  • Prions
  • Survival Rate
  • Wasting Disease, Chronic / mortality
  • Wasting Disease, Chronic / pathology*
  • Wasting Disease, Chronic / physiopathology


  • Prions