The first detection of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Europe

The Norwegian Veterinary Institute (NVI) has diagnosed Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in a free-ranging reindeer from the Nordfjella population in South-Norway. CWD is a lethal disease in cervids. The disease is well known in North America; however this is the first detection of CWD in Europe. Also, this is the first detection of natural infection in reindeer worldwide. This news includes a video with expert interviews. 

This article was first published 04.04.2016

"The sick female reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus) was detected in the middle of March 2016 in connection with capture for GPS-collaring using helicopter performed by the NVI for Nature Research (NINA). It died and the carcass was submitted to the NVI in Oslo for necropsy and laboratory examinations. It was an adult animal," says wildlife pathologist Turid Vikøren at the NVI, who performed the necropsy.

The body condition of the reindeer was below medium, but it still had some adipose tissue left. In cervids older than 18 months, we routinely collect brain samples for examination as part of the national surveillance program for CWD, and that was also done in this reindeer," Vikøren continues.

The head of the Norwegian Reference Laboratory for animal prion diseases at the NVI, Sylvie Benestad, states that the brain sample from the reindeer tested positive for the detection of prions both by the first routine test (ELISA) and in two supplementary tests (Western Blotting, Immunohistochemistry).

The disease

CWD 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 North America, in which natural infections occur in mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), white-tailed deer (O. virginianus), elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) and moose (Alces alces shirasi). The reindeer from Norway represents the first detection of CWD in Europe. Also, this is the first detection of a natural infection in reindeer worldwide.

The NVI will take the initiative with follow-up surveys of this disease in Norway's wild reindeer populations.

Updated 19.04.2016. Nature has written a news story based on our detection of CWD. 

Read the whole story here

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