Can Mad Deer Disease spread to humans?

Oh deer!

Most meat-eaters in the western world consume store-bought processed meats from common livestock animals like cows or pigs. A small number of meat-eaters hunt for their meat, believing wild sources of animal flesh to be safer and more “natural” than meat from the store. In much of North America, deer are the most commonly hunted animal for consumption.

But is it really safer? Believe it or not, there is a Deer version of Mad Cow Disease that is sometimes called “Mad Deer Disease”. It is similar in many ways to Mad Cow Disease in that it is a neuro-degenerative disease(or “CWD” – chronic wasting disease) caused by a prion. It also shows some potential to spread to humans. According to the Department of Neurology, University of Texas Medical School at Houston, Texas, in Generation of a new form of human PrP(Sc) in vitro by interspecies transmission from cervid(deer) prions:

Prion diseases are infectious neurodegenerative disorders that affect humans and animals and that result from the conversion of normal prion protein (PrP(C)) into the misfolded prion protein (PrP(Sc)). Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion disorder of increasing prevalence within the United States that affects a large population of wild and captive deer and elk. Determining the risk of transmission of CWD to humans is of utmost importance, considering that people can be infected by animal prions, resulting in new fatal diseases. To study the possibility that human PrP(C) can be converted into the misfolded form by CWD PrP(Sc), we performed experiments using the protein misfolding cyclic amplification technique, which mimics in vitro the process of prion replication. Our results show that cervid PrP(Sc) can induce the conversion of human PrP(C) but only after the CWD prion strain has been stabilized by successive passages in vitro or in vivo. Interestingly, the newly generated human PrP(Sc) exhibits a distinct biochemical pattern that differs from that of any of the currently known forms of human PrP(Sc). Our results also have profound implications for understanding the mechanisms of the prion species barrier and indicate that the transmission barrier is a dynamic process that depends on the strain and moreover the degree of adaptation of the strain. If our findings are corroborated by infectivity assays, they will imply that CWD prions have the potential to infect humans and that this ability progressively increases with CWD spreading.

Since I never ever consume meat from any source, this isn’t something I have to worry about. But if you’re a hunter living the paleo life, this should concern you.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s