Detection of CWD prions in urine and saliva of deer by transgenic mouse bioassay

Nicholas J. Haley, Davis M. Seelig, Mark D. Zabel, Glenn C. Telling, Edward A. Hoover

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192 Scopus citations


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, PrPCWD 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 PrPCWD levels by traditional assays (western blot, ELISA) and prolonged incubation periods and incomplete TSE attack rates in inoculated Tg(CerPrP) mice (373±3days 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere4848
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 18 2009


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