Chronic Wasting Disease The Tip Of An Iceberg
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is ravaging wildlife in many regions across North America. It’s part of a larger epidemic of neurological disease that is killing millions of people, wildlife and livestock around the world. Once again, wildlife are serving as the proverbial canary in a coal mine.
CWD is part of an incurable spectrum disease called transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). The operative word is “transmissible.” Mismanagement of pathogens associated with the disease are contributing to a broader epidemic of neurological disease among wildlife, livestock and people.
TSEs include Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, mad cow disease and chronic wasting disease in deer. Few, if any, mammals are immune.There is no species barrier. There is no cure.
TSEs, including chronic wasting disease, are caused by a deadly protein called a prion (PREE-on). Prion disease is unstoppable. Prions defy all attempts at sterilization and inactivation. Victims can spread the disease even further via their bodily fluids and cell tissue. Victims often are contagious long before they appear sick. Their saliva, urine, blood and feces, for example, spread the pathogen further every day. Prions linger in the environment and on objects infinitely. They migrate, mutate, multiply and kill with unparalleled efficiency. Because of the dynamics, Canada has declared CWD unstoppable.
Dr. Stanley Prusiner, an American neuroscientist from the University of California at San Francisco, earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for discovering, naming and characterizing deadly prions and prion disease. President Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 to recognize the rising importance of his research. Unfortunately, U.S. policy on many fronts ignores the perils of prions. Most countries are guilty of the same offense.
Prion diseases are killing humans, wildlife and livestock around the world today. It’s been gaining momentum over the past century. So has mismanagement by government, some researchers and industry.
The prion problem is getting worse with rising populations, rising concentrations of people, intensive agriculture, reckless sewage disposal policies and other mismanaged pathways. As the epidemic strikes more people, the pathways for prion exposure explode and intensify. Reckless sewage treatment and disposal policies and practices alone are putting billions of innocent people in the crossfire right now. Entire watersheds are endangered thanks to a deadly pathogen that migrates, mutates and multiplies.
The problem with prions is that they linger in the environment infinitely because they defy all attempts at sterilization and inactivation. Unlike viruses or bacteria, prions are not alive. Therefore, they can’t be killed.
When the U.S. government enacted the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, it included a provision to halt research on prions in all but two laboratories. It classified prions as select agents that pose an extreme risk to food, water and more. It was a step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, industry pressure convinced the Center For Disease Control to quietly take prions off the list of special agents two years ago. Keeping prions listed threatened to outlaw several multi-billion dollar industries. This reversal kept the floodgates open to the prion threat. Especially regarding sewage, agriculture and water reclamation industries.
Although there are many causes and pathways contributing to CWD and the prion disease epidemic, many pathways are being mismanaged around the globe. Thanks to sewage, biosolids, reclaimed sewage water and feedlot waste, we’re recycling the prion pathogen that causes neurological disease right back into our watersheds, which we share with deer, elk, moose, livestock and other creatures that are vulnerable to prion disease.
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