Chronic wasting disease of cervids: current knowledge and future perspectives

Annu Rev Anim Biosci. 2015;3:305-25. doi: 10.1146/annurev-animal-022114-111001. Epub 2014 Oct 2.


A naturally occurring transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) of mule deer was first reported in Colorado and Wyoming in 1967 and has since spread to other members of the cervid family in 22 states, 2 Canadian provinces, and the Republic of Korea. Chronic wasting disease (CWD), caused by exposure to an abnormally folded isoform of the cellular prion protein, is characterized by progressive neurological disease in susceptible natural and experimental hosts and is ultimately fatal. CWD is thought to be transmitted horizontally in excreta and through contaminated environments, features common to scrapie of sheep, though rare among TSEs. Evolving detection methods have revealed multiple strains of CWD and with continued development may lead to an effective antemortem test. Managing the spread of CWD, through the development of a vaccine or environmental cleanup strategies, is an active area of interest. As such, CWD represents a unique challenge in the study of prion diseases.

Keywords: CWD; TSE; chronic wasting disease; detection; pathogenesis; prion; transmissible spongiform encephalopathy; transmission.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Deer
  • Prions / chemistry
  • Prions / genetics
  • Species Specificity
  • Wasting Disease, Chronic* / diagnosis
  • Wasting Disease, Chronic* / epidemiology
  • Wasting Disease, Chronic* / therapy
  • Wasting Disease, Chronic* / transmission


  • Prions