For the first time, a new study demonstrates that certain rodents can be directly infected with CWD and therefore serve as animal models for further study of the disease. The researchers report their findings in the Journal of Virology.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD), also known as mad cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease in humans, is a transmissible prion disease most commonly found in deer and elk. Conversion of the normal host protein to an abnormal disease-associated form is an important part in the tracking of prion diseases and researchers are hopeful that rodent-adapted CWD models could assist in therapeutic development.

In the study transgenic and wild-type mice in addition to Syrian, Djungarian, Chinese, Siberian and Armenian hamsters were inoculated with CWD samples retrieved from deer and elk and monitored over various amounts of time. Distinct neuropathological patterns throughout differing incubation periods were observed in Chinese hamsters and transgenic mice offering the highest susceptibility rates. Wild-type mice and Djungarian hamsters were found not to be susceptible to CWD.

"We have shown that CWD from one or more cervid species can be transmitted to Sg, Chinese, Siberian, and Armenian hamsters and to Tg mice that express Sg hamster prion protein," say the researchers. "The resulting rodent-adapted CWD models could be useful in comparative studies of TSE strains in vivo as well as for testing potential anti-TSE therapeutic agents."

(G.J. Raymond, L.D. Raymond, K.D. Meade-White, A.G. Hughson, C. Favara, D. Gardner, E.S. Williams, M.W. Miller, R.E. Race, B. Caughey. 2007. Transmission and adaptation of chronic wasting disease to hamsters and transgenic mice: evidence for strains. Journal of Virology, 81. 8: 4305-4314).

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Tips from the Journals of the American Society for Microbiology

Contact: Carrie Patterson
American Society for Microbiology