Scrapie and chronic wasting disease (CWD) are two prion diseases of particular environmental concern as they are horizontally transmissible. Prions are shed from diseased hosts in a diverse set of biologic matrices and are present throughout the diseased host. There is strong experimental evidence that properties of soil and water can significantly affect prion sorption, resistance to degradation, persistence, replication efficiency when bound to soil, and ultimately prion infectivity. Highly sensitive and accurate detection of prion infectivity in the environment is not currently possible, severely hampering informed management of disease. A more thorough understanding of the interaction of prions with the environment in combination with robust detection methods may lead to means to reduce or eliminating prion disease in free-range and captive animal populations as well as mitigating the risk of zoonotic prion transmission.
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