Study: CWD Prions Prevalent at Mineral Lick Sites

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A University of Wisconsin study indicates salt or mineral licks are prime locations for the transmission of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Researchers found prions from nine of 11 sample sites in southern Wisconsin.

“It confirms a suspicion that deer are shedding prions into the environment,” Joel Pederson, study co-author and environmental chemistry professor, told Wisconsin Public Radio. “The implication of our study is that there is reason to believe that there could be environmental transmission occurring at mineral sites, and perhaps at other areas where deer congregate, and supports the idea that halting practices that cause deer to congregate is probably a good idea in minimizing the extent of transmissions.”

According to the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance, CWD affects only hoofed animals in the cervidae family such as deer, elk, and moose. CWD affects the body’s nervous system. Once in the host’s body, prions transform normal cellular protein into an abnormal shape that accumulates until the cell ceases to function. Infected animals begin to lose weight, lose their appetite, and develop an insatiable thirst.

(Photo source: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources/ Linda Freshwaters Arndt)