A naturally occurring transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) of mule deer was first reported in Colorado and Wyoming in 1967 and has since spread to other members of the cervid family in 22 states, 2 Canadian provinces, and the Republic of Korea. Chronic wasting disease (CWD), caused by exposure to an abnormally folded isoform of the cellular prion protein, is characterized by progressive neurological disease in susceptible natural and experimental hosts and is ultimately fatal.CWDis thought to be transmitted horizontally in excreta and through contaminated environments, features common to scrapie of sheep, though rare among TSEs. Evolving detection methods have revealed multiple strains of CWD and with continued development may lead to an effective antemortem test. Managing the spread of CWD, through the development of a vaccine or environmental cleanup strategies, is an active area of interest. As such, CWD represents a unique challenge in the study of prion diseases. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Animal Biosciences Volume 3 is February 15, 2015. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/catalog/pubdates.aspx for revised estimates.
Prions are amyloid-forming proteins that cause transmissible spongiform encephalopathies through a process involving the templated conversion of the normal cellular prion protein (PrPC) to a pathogenic misfolded conformation. Templated conversion has been modeled in several in vitro assays, including serial protein misfolding amplification (sPMCA), amyloid seeding, and real time quaking induced conversion (RT-QuIC). Because RT-QuIC measures formation of amyloid fibrils in real time, it can be used to estimate the rate of seeded conversion. Here we use samples from deer infected with chronic wasting disease (CWD) in RT-QuIC to show that serial dilution of prion seed is linearly related to the rate of amyloid formation over a range of 10-3 to 10-8 µg. We then used an amyloid formation rate standard curve derived from a bioassayed reference sample (CWD+ brain homogenate) to estimate the prion seed concentration and infectivity in tissues, body fluids and excreta. Using these methods we estimate that urine and saliva from CWD-infected deer contain between 1 and 5 LD50 per 10 ml, respectively. Thus, over the 1 to 2 year course of infection, a substantial environmental reservoir of CWD prion contamination accumulates.
Chronic wasting disease (CWD), a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy of deer, elk, and moose, is the only prion disease affecting free-ranging animals. Since the disease was first identified in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming in 1967, new epidemic foci of the disease have been identified in 20 additional states, as well as two Canadian provinces and the Republic of South Korea. Identification of CWD-affected animals currently requires postmortem analysis of brain or lymphoid tissues using immunohistochemistry (IHC) or an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), with no practical way to evaluate potential strain types or to investigate the epidemiology of existing or novel foci of disease. Using a standardized real-time (RT)-quaking-induced conversion (QuIC) assay, a seeded amplification assay employing recombinant prion protein as a conversion substrate and thioflavin T (ThT) as an amyloid-binding fluorophore, we analyzed, in a blinded manner, 1,243 retropharyngeal lymph node samples from white-tailed deer, mule deer, and moose, collected in the field from areas with current or historic CWD endemicity. RT-QuIC results were then compared with those obtained by conventional IHC and ELISA, and amplification metrics using ThT and thioflavin S were examined in relation to the clinical history of the sampled deer. The results indicate that RT-QuIC is useful for both identifying CWD-infected animals and facilitating epidemiological studies in areas in which CWD is endemic or not endemic.
Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), or prion diseases, are a uniformly fatal family of neurodegenerative diseases in mammals that includes chronic wasting disease (CWD) of cervids. The early and ante-mortem identification of TSE-infected individuals using conventional western blotting or immunohistochemistry (IHC) has proven difficult, as the levels of infectious prions in readily obtainable samples, including blood and bodily fluids, are typically beyond the limits of detection. The development of amplification-based seeding assays has been instrumental in the detection of low levels of infectious prions in clinical samples. In the present study, we evaluated the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of CWD-exposed (n=44) and naïve (n=4) deer (n=48 total) for CWD prions (PrP(d)) using two amplification assays: serial protein misfolding cyclic amplification with polytetrafluoroethylene beads (sPMCAb) and real-time quaking induced conversion (RT-QuIC) employing a truncated Syrian hamster recombinant protein substrate. Samples were evaluated blindly in parallel with appropriate positive and negative controls. Results from amplification assays were compared to one another and to obex immunohistochemistry, and were correlated to available clinical histories including CWD inoculum source (e.g. saliva, blood), genotype, survival period, and duration of clinical signs. We found that both sPMCAb and RT-QuIC were capable of amplifying CWD prions from cervid CSF, and results correlated well with one another. Prion seeding activity in either assay was observed in approximately 50% of deer with PrP(d) detected by IHC in the obex region of the brain. Important predictors of amplification included duration of clinical signs and time of first tonsil biopsy positive results, and ultimately the levels of PrP(d) identified in the obex by IHC. Based on our findings, we expect that both sPMCAb and RT-QuIC may prove to be useful detection assays for the detection of prions in CSF.
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is an efficiently transmitted prion disease of cervids, now identified in 22 United States, 2 Canadian provinces and Korea. One hallmark of CWD is the shedding of infectious prions in saliva, as demonstrated by bioassay in deer. It is also clear that the concentration of prions in saliva, blood, urine and feces is much lower than in the nervous system or lymphoid tissues. Rapid in vitro detection of CWD (and other) prions in body fluids and excreta has been problematic due to the sensitivity limits of direct assays (western blotting, ELISA) and the presence of inhibitors in these complex biological materials that hamper detection. Here we use real-time quaking induced conversion (RT-QuIC) to demonstrate CWD prions in both diluted and prion-enriched saliva samples from asymptomatic and symptomatic white-tailed deer. CWD prions were detected in 14 of 24 (58.3%) diluted saliva samples from CWD-exposed white-tailed deer, including 9 of 14 asymptomatic animals (64.2%). In addition, a phosphotungstic acid enrichment enhanced the RT-QuIC assay sensitivity, enabling detection in 19 of 24 (79.1%) of the above saliva samples. Bioassay in Tg[CerPrP] mice confirmed the presence of infectious prions in 2 of 2 RT-QuIC-positive saliva samples so examined. The modified RT-QuIC analysis described represents a non-invasive, rapid ante-mortem detection of prions in complex biologic fluids, excreta, or environmental samples as well as a tool for exploring prion trafficking, peripheralization, and dissemination.
The horizontal transmission of prion diseases has been well characterized in bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), chronic wasting disease (CWD) of deer and elk and scrapie of sheep, and has been regarded as the primary mode of transmission. Few studies have monitored the possibility of vertical transmission occurring within an infected mother during pregnancy. To study the potential for and pathway of vertical transmission of CWD in the native cervid species, we used a small cervid model-the polyestrous breeding, indoor maintainable, Reeves muntjac deer-and determined that the susceptibility and pathogenesis of CWD in these deer reproduce that in native mule and white-tailed deer. Moreover, we demonstrate here that CWD prions are transmitted from doe to fawn. Maternal CWD infection also appears to result in lower percentage of live birth offspring. In addition, evolving evidence from protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA) assays on fetal tissues suggest that covert prion infection occurs in utero. Overall, our findings demonstrate that transmission of prions from mother to offspring can occur, and may be underestimated for all prion diseases.
Efficient horizontal transmission is a signature trait of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in cervids. Infectious prions shed into excreta appear to play a key role in this facile transmission, as has been demonstrated by bioassays of cervid and transgenic species and serial protein misfolding cyclic amplification (sPMCA). However, the source(s) of infectious prions in these body fluids has yet to be identified. In the present study, we analyzed tissues proximate to saliva, urine, and fecal production by sPMCA in an attempt to elucidate this unique aspect of CWD pathogenesis. Oropharyngeal, urogenital, and gastrointestinal tissues along with blood and obex from CWD-exposed cervids (comprising 27 animals and >350 individual samples) were analyzed and scored based on the apparent relative CWD burden. PrP(CWD)-generating activity was detected in a range of tissues and was highest in the salivary gland, urinary bladder, and distal intestinal tract. In the same assays, blood from the same animals and unseeded normal brain homogenate controls (n = 116 of 117) remained negative. The PrP-converting activity in peripheral tissues varied from 10(-11)- to 10(0)-fold of that found in brain of the same animal. Deer with highest levels of PrP(CWD) amplification in the brain had higher and more widely disseminated prion amplification in excretory tissues. Interestingly, PrP(CWD) was not demonstrable in these excretory tissues by conventional Western blotting, suggesting a low prion burden or the presence of protease-sensitive infectious prions destroyed by harsh proteolytic treatments. These findings offer unique insights into the transmission of CWD in particular and prion infection and trafficking overall.
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) of cervids is a prion disease distinguished by high levels of transmissibility, wherein bodily fluids and excretions are thought to play an important role. Using cervid bioassay and established CWD detection methods, we have previously identified infectious prions in saliva and blood but not urine or feces of CWD+ donors. More recently, we identified very low concentrations of CWD prions in urine of deer by cervid PrP transgenic (Tg[CerPrP]) mouse bioassay and serial protein misfolding cyclic amplification (sPMCA). This finding led us to examine further our initial cervid bioassay experiments using sPMCA.
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion disease affecting captive and free-ranging cervids (e.g. deer, elk, and moose). The mechanisms of CWD transmission are poorly understood, though bodily fluids are thought to play an important role. Here we report the presence of infectious prions in the urine and saliva of deer with chronic wasting disease (CWD). Prion infectivity was detected by bioassay of concentrated, dialyzed urine and saliva in transgenic mice expressing the cervid PrP gene (Tg[CerPrP] mice). In addition, PrP(CWD) was detected in pooled and concentrated urine by protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA). The concentration of abnormal prion protein in bodily fluids was very low, as indicated by: undetectable PrP(CWD) levels by traditional assays (western blot, ELISA) and prolonged incubation periods and incomplete TSE attack rates in inoculated Tg(CerPrP) mice (373(+/-)3 days in 2 of 9 urine-inoculated mice and 342(+/-)109 days in 8 of 9 saliva-inoculated mice). These findings help extend our understanding of CWD prion shedding and transmission and portend the detection of infectious prions in body fluids in other prion infections.
While the facile transmission of chronic wasting disease (CWD) remains incompletely elucidated, studies in rodents suggest that exposure of the respiratory mucosa may be an efficient pathway. The present study was designed to address this question in the native cervid host. Here, we demonstrate aerosol transmission of CWD to deer with a prion dose >20-fold lower than that used in previous oral inoculations. Inhalation of prions may facilitate transmission of CWD and, perhaps, other prion infections.
As the only prion disease affecting free-ranging animals, ante-mortem identification of affected cervids has become paramount in understanding chronic wasting disease (CWD) pathogenesis, prevalence and control of horizontal or vertical transmission. To seek maximal sensitivity in ante-mortem detection of CWD infection, this study used paired tonsil biopsy samples collected at various time points from 48 CWD-exposed cervids to compare blinded serial protein misfolding cyclic amplification (sPMCA) with the assay long considered the gold standard for CWD detection, immunohistochemistry (IHC). sPMCA-negative controls (34?% of the samples evaluated) included tissues from mock-inoculated animals and unspiked negative controls, all of which tested negative throughout the course of the study. It was found that sPMCA on tonsil biopsies detected CWD infection significantly earlier (2.78 months, 95?% confidence interval 2.40-3.15) than conventional IHC. Interestingly, a correlation was observed between early detection by sPMCA and host PRNP genotype. These findings demonstrate that in vitro-amplification assays provide enhanced sensitivity and advanced detection of CWD infection in the peripheral tissues of cervids, with a potential role for spike or substrate genotype in sPMCA amplification efficiency.
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