Detection of Chronic Wasting Disease in two Norwegian moose

The Norwegian Veterinary Institute has diagnosed Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in two moose (Alces alces) in Norway. This is the first detection of CWD in moose in Europe. The disease, well known in North America, was detected for the first time in Europe in a wild Norwegian reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus) in April 2016. 

This article was first published 03.06.2016

The two moose were necropsied at the Norwegian Veterinary Institute in Trondheim and their brain tissue tested positive for CWD-prion protein in both the routine ELISA test and the supplementary Western Blot test.

The two CWD positive moose originated from Selbu municipality in the Trøndelag region, close to the Swedish border. Both were adult pregnant females. One of them was 13 years old, whereas the age of the other is being determined. The first moose was euthanized due to altered behavior and emaciation. The other, found dead in a river, was in normal condition and necropsy revealed trauma as the cause of death.

Selbu is located around 300 kilometers from Nordfjella, the mountain area where CWD was diagnosed in a wild reindeer in April 2016. 

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The disease

Chronic Wasting Disease is a contagious neurological disease that attacks the brain of cervids. CWD belongs to a group of diseases known as Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs), in which the infectious agents are known to be the prion protein, a normal protein that misfolds and destroys the brain. The development of the disease is slow and affected cervids show loss of body condition and altered behavior. Death is inevitable once clinical disease occurs. 

CWD is an endemic disease in some parts of North America where natural infections occur in mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), white-tailed deer (O. virginianus), elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) and moose (Alces alces shirasi). There is no evidence that deer with CWD can contaminate livestock or humans.

In cooperation with the Norwegian Food Safety Authority and the Norwegian Environment Agency, the Norwegian Veterinary Institute is now planning follow-up surveys on CWD in Norwegian wild ruminant (cervid) populations. 

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