Susceptibilities of Nonhuman Primates to Chronic Wasting Disease

Emerg Infect Dis. 2009 Sep;15(9):1366-76. doi: 10.3201/eid1509.090253.


Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, or prion disease, that affects deer, elk, and moose. Human susceptibility to CWD remains unproven despite likely exposure to CWD-infected cervids. We used 2 nonhuman primate species, cynomolgus macaques and squirrel monkeys, as human models for CWD susceptibility. CWD was inoculated into these 2 species by intracerebral and oral routes. After intracerebral inoculation of squirrel monkeys, 7 of 8 CWD isolates induced a clinical wasting syndrome within 33-53 months. The monkeys' brains showed spongiform encephalopathy and protease-resistant prion protein (PrPres) diagnostic of prion disease. After oral exposure, 2 squirrel monkeys had PrPres in brain, spleen, and lymph nodes at 69 months postinfection. In contrast, cynomolgus macaques have not shown evidence of clinical disease as of 70 months postinfection. Thus, these 2 species differed in susceptibility to CWD. Because humans are evolutionarily closer to macaques than to squirrel monkeys, they may also be resistant to CWD.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Disease Susceptibility*
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes / metabolism
  • Macaca fascicularis / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Peptide Hydrolases / pharmacology
  • Prion Diseases / metabolism
  • Prion Diseases / pathology*
  • Prions / drug effects
  • Prions / metabolism
  • Prions / pathogenicity*
  • Saimiri / metabolism*
  • Species Specificity
  • Spleen / metabolism
  • Wasting Disease, Chronic / metabolism
  • Wasting Disease, Chronic / pathology*


  • Prions
  • Peptide Hydrolases