Prion? Or Bacteria? That is the question.
What causes Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)? It's a question that needs a solid answer if we're going to conquer this threat to wildlife.
Currently, the majority of scientists believe prions are the cause of CWD and other Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE) diseases. The problem is that no one has been able to determine how prions act at the infectious agent. There was a time when Copernicus was in the minority, too, and he turned out to be right about the earth revolving around the sun (and not the other way around). Now, Dr. Frank Bastian of Louisiana State University has come along to say that a spiroplasma bacteria is the infectious agent, not the prion, and the prion is a marker — evidence that CWD is present.
Knowing the actual cause of TSE diseases will help deer, cattle, sheep, humans, and every organism that can get such neurological diseases by putting the research where it belongs. My February 25 column in the Jamestown Gazette focuses on Dr. Bastian's work and the new hope it's giving for every type of TSE disease. Read "Chronic Wasting Disease: New Reasons for Optimism."
Photo courtesy of the Pennsylvania Game Commission: In the early stages of CWD deer can appear to be healthy. Clinical symptoms, including weight loss, excessive salivation, loss of fear, and loss of awareness. appear in the late stages of the disease, sometimes years after being infected.