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The susceptibility of british deer to chronic wasting disease - SE2023

Description
Prion disease epidemics pose serious risks to animal and human health alike, as evidenced by the devastating effects of the BSE epidemic in cattle in the 1980s and 1990s, which also caused more than 200 human deaths from the equivalent disease in man. Now a new prion disease is threatening the UK: chronic wasting disease (CWD) is endemic in captive and free-ranging cervid species (e.g. mule deer, white-tailed deer, wapiti, moose) in North America, and has recently been identified in reindeer and European moose in Norway. The origin of the Norwegian cases is unknown, but since CWD is known to be highly contagious and transmissible to most deer species, it seems only a matter of time before the disease spreads to the UK. CWD is the only prion disease known to occur in wildlife populations, posing significant challenges for disease monitoring and control. CWD-infected deer have a long incubation period before developing signs of the disease, during which they can shed infection in e.g. saliva, urine, faeces, placenta, leading to transmission to in-contact animals and environmental contamination. Prions are known to bind tightly to certain soil types and remain infectious over several years, and are extremely resistant to most common methods of disinfection or decontamination.
If CWD does enter the UK, we will need to examine the feasibility of strategies to manage and control the disease, which requires us to know the likelihood of transmission within and between deer species, and the dynamics of geographical spread. We currently know little about how CWD could spread within deer in the UK because we have few estimates of disease susceptibility in our native cervid species. The major determining factor of prion disease susceptibility is genetics (in particular, variation within the prion protein gene, PRNP). In North American cervids, four PRNP sequence variants have been associated with prolonged survival of CWD-infected animals, but genotyping of the major UK deer species has been exceptionally limited.
We propose to perform in the first instance a survey of PRNP genetics in British red deer, roe deer and sika deer populations, using existing sample collections. Due to the fact that >1000 representative samples for the UK deer population are available, and the necessary PRNP genotyping technologies were previously developed by the applicants and are in current use for other projects, the proposed data can be generated very quickly and efficiently. Where suitable samples are available, we can also sequence a limited number of samples from other British deer populations (including fallow, muntjak and Chinese Water deer) in which PRNP genetics has not previously been analysed.
Objective
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is endemic in captive and free-ranging cervid species (e.g. mule deer, white-tailed deer, wapiti, moose) in North America ( suggested up to 70% decrease in population in the worst areas), and has recently been identified in reindeer and European moose in Norway. The origin of the Norwegian cases is unknown, but since CWD is known to be highly contagious and to last for several years in the environment, it seems only a matter of time before the disease spreads to the UK. There is considerable concern about the impact on the UK deer industry ( both food and hunting) and in addition the European commission is expected to require all countries to start a surveillance programme . We don't have much information on the susceptibility of British deer to the disease which is required both to design effective , affordable, surveillance and identify high risk groups and control strategies.
Main objective: To determine the extent of genetic variation at the PRNP gene locus in free-ranging populations of red deer, sika deer and roe deer from a number of different locations across Great Britain.
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2017

To: 2017

Cost: £24,564
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University of Edinburgh
Keywords
Animals