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 are caused by a deadly protein called a prion (PREE-on). As such, TSEs also are referred to as prion disease. The critical factor is that prions are unstoppable. The pathogen spreads through the bodily fluids and cell tissue of its victims. Blood, saliva, mucus, milk, urine and feces carry deadly prions from victims. All tissue is infectious just because of the contact with the contaminated blood.
Dr. Stanley Prusiner, an American neuroscientist from the University of California at San Francisco, earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for discovering and characterizing deadly prions and prion disease. President Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 to recognize the importance of his research. According to Prusiner, TSEs all are on the same disease spectrum, which is more accurately described as prion disease. He claims that all TSEs are caused by prions.
Prions are unstoppable and the pathogen spreads through the bodily fluids and cell tissue of its victims. Prions shed from humans are the most deadly mutation. They demand more respect than radiation. Infected surgical instruments, for example, are impossible to sterilize and hospitals throw them away. Prions are in the blood, saliva, urine, feces, mucus, and bodily tissue of its victims. Many factors are contributing to the epidemic. Prions are now the X factor.
Industry and government are not accounting for them or regulating them. They are ignoring the threat completely, which violates the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 in the United States. Other nations also are ignoring laws developed to protect food, air and water.
A new study published in the journal Nature renews concern about the transmissibility of Alzheimer’s disease between people. A second study by the same scientist in early 2016 adds to the stack of evidence.
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 infectious 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. Rain, wind and irrigation spread deadly prions further everyday. Healthy wildlife are being exposed to deadly prions through food, water, air and contact with infected animals.
Since prions are in the bodily fluids of its victims, sewage mismanagement is a top concern. Wastewater treatment plants can’t detect or stop prions. Just ask the U.S. EPA. Therefore, putting biosolids on crops and dumping sewage sludge throughout our watersheds is a very bad idea. Dumping sewage from billions of people on land and at sea creates deadly prion freeways.
Every sewage system in the world has been used by a person, if not millions of people, with Alzheimer’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Sewage systems have become prion incubators. Biosolids, wastewater reuse and sludge disposal have made them potent prion distributors. The waste from feedlots is likely contributing to the problem as well.
Although there are multiple causes of prion disease, including CWD, reckless policies are contributing to an environmental nightmare. Sick deer, elk, moose and other wildlife and marine life are just a symptom of a much bigger problem. Putting these pandora-like pathogens back in the box is impossible.
Unfortunately, misinformation distributed by government agencies about the risks associated with chronic wasting disease are reckless, incompetent and criminally negligent at best. Claiming that there is no known risk associated with handling or consuming wildlife with CWD is laughable. Just look at the guidance issued regarding mad cow disease. Just look at the guidance issued to people with the most severe form of the disease–Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
The bodies of victims, regardless of species, are highly toxic and contagious. Hunting knives and saws used on sick wildlife are infected forever. Processing plants that cut and grind wildlife carcasses for hunters (before CWD tests are complete) are contaminated forever. Every animal processed after an infected carcass will become infected. Pickups and trailers that transport infected animals are hopelessly contaminated. The prion pathways created by one hunting trip can explode exponentially within hours.
Hunters should just walk away from a carcass that looks suspicious and one should treat all game that looks healthy as suspicious, until proven otherwise. Hunters that kill and dress deer with CWD expose themselves and their families to prion disease in many ways thanks to misinformation from state and federal regulators.
It’s impossible to neutralize or stop prions in even the most sterile environments, including hospitals. It’s ludicrous to think that treated sewage water or biosolids are prion-free. Especially since prions from people are much more infectious than those found in other species (prions become more aggressive as they work their way up the food chain). It’s also ludicrous to think that game processing plants are prion-free. Regulations in this arena are criminal. Thousands, possibly millions, of innocent people have been exposed to the prions from someone else’s deer. That’s because many are processed before testing or no testing is done at all.
According to the U.S. EPA, “Prions are extremely resistant to inactivation by ultraviolet light, irradiation, boiling, dry heat, formaline, freezing, drying and changes in pH. Methods for inactivating prions in infected tissues or wastes include incineration at very high temperatures and alkaline hydrolysis.”
This applies to both the sewage plants that are contaminating our favorite hunting grounds it also has to do with game processing plants. It’s impossible to sterilize either once infected with prions.
The EPA National Water Research Compendium 2009-2014 lists prions eight times as an emerging contaminant of concern in sewage sludge (biosolids), water and manure. The EPA issued what it calls the “Sludge Rule,” which basically disclaims any responsibility for its risk assessments regarding biosolids. The EPA reserves the right to adjust these risk assessments, however, as the test of time disproves its pseudo-science.
Prion researcher Dr. Joel Pedersen, from the University of Wisconsin, found that prions become 680 times more infective in certain soils. Pedersen’s research also found that sewage treatment does not inactivate prions. Therefore, prions are lethal, mutating, migrating and multiplying everywhere sewage and its byproducts are dumped.
“Our results suggest that if prions enter municipal wastewater treatment systems, most of the agent would bond to sludge, survive anaerobic digestion, and be present in treated biosolids,” Pedersen said. “Land application of biosolids containing prions represents a route for their unintentional introduction into the environment. Our results emphasize the importance of keeping prions out of municipal wastewater treatment systems. Prions could end up in sewage treatment plants via slaughterhouses, hospitals, dental offices and mortuaries just to name a few of the pathways. The disposal of sludge represents the greatest risk of spreading prion contamination in the environment. Plus, we know that sewage sludge pathogens, pharmaceutical residue and chemical pollutants are taken up by plants and vegetables.” (Now, we know that plants uptake prions, too.)