Chronic Wasting Disease – Prions

by Vincent Racaniello, PhD

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    00:01 Another threat to the food supply is chronic wasting disease. This is a prion disease that infects deer, elk and moose. And it's been recognized as increasingly prevalent in these animals. On this map of the US and Canada, you can see numbers which indicate the years that chronic wasting disease has been discovered in these animals, so you can see it's been found throughout the US, particularly in the Midwest states. It's also been found in Canada and more recently in South Korea and the graph on the right shows you among total captive and free ranging animals, the increase in discovery of this affliction since 1965.

    00:45 So there's been a steep increase since 1995. So these animals develop a TSE essentially very much like mad cow disease, they become disoriented and eventually they die. This is thought to be a threat to the food supply in standing herds of elk and deer, you can have 90 or 60% of the animals positive for chronic wasting disease, prions and in wild animals, up to 15% of randomly sampled animals, seem to have these prion diseases. Now why is this a threat to us, well many people hunt deer and so this is making you at risk for possibly being contaminated by a deer prion. We don't know if deer prions can be transmitted to humans, but if you listen to another more advanced lecture on prion diseases, we'll talk about some experiments that address that problem.

    01:43 Another potential issue with the human food supply is that deer often contaminate pastures in which there are cows that are used for milk or for eating. So for example at night the deer may go into the pastures and defecate in the pasture, the feces of deer and urine of deer has been shown to contain prions, so the next day the cows may be contaminated with that, and the prion may cross into cows. So right now we're a little bit worried about chronic wasting disease as it affects either deer meat or beef.

    02:20 So after listening to this, you're probably very frightened about eating beef, but remember it's a very rare disease, the TSE, so you're probably okay, but also I hope that you know the history of prion discovery. I hope you understand what a prion is and what diseases prions can cause. You should know the three different kinds of prion diseases and you should be able to assess why mad cow disease and chronic wasting disease are threats to the food supply.

    02:50 Thanks for listening, I'm sorry if I scared you, see you next time.

    About the Lecture

    The lecture Chronic Wasting Disease – Prions by Vincent Racaniello, PhD is from the course Microbiology: Introduction.

    Included Quiz Questions

    1. Consumption of contaminated meat may transmit TSE to humans.
    2. Humans may sporadically develop prion disease.
    3. Scrapie can be transmitted to mice.
    4. Humans may transmit prion disease to other humans via corneal transplants.
    1. They involve collections of several different parasites all working together.
    2. They are uniformly undetectable before symptoms develop.
    3. No diagnostic tests exist that can tell if a person is infected with a prion.
    4. There are no effective treatments to cure a prion disease.
    5. They involve an incubation period and symptoms which involve neurological problems.
    1. Elk
    2. Goat
    3. Cow
    4. Hen
    5. Turkey

    Author of lecture Chronic Wasting Disease – Prions

     Vincent Racaniello, PhD

    Vincent Racaniello, PhD

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