The Zoonotic Potential of Chronic Wasting Disease—A Review
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionFoods. 2023, 12 (4), 1-20. 10.3390/foods12040824
Prion diseases are transmissible neurodegenerative disorders that affect humans and ruminant species consumed by humans. Ruminant prion diseases include bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle, scrapie in sheep and goats and chronic wasting disease (CWD) in cervids. In 1996, prions causing BSE were identified as the cause of a new prion disease in humans; variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). This sparked a food safety crisis and unprecedented protective measures to reduce human exposure to livestock prions. CWD continues to spread in North America, and now affects free-ranging and/or farmed cervids in 30 US states and four Canadian provinces. The recent discovery in Europe of previously unrecognized CWD strains has further heightened concerns about CWD as a food pathogen. The escalating CWD prevalence in enzootic areas and its appearance in a new species (reindeer) and new geographical locations, increase human exposure and the risk of CWD strain adaptation to humans. No cases of human prion disease caused by CWD have been recorded, and most experimental data suggest that the zoonotic risk of CWD is very low. However, the understanding of these diseases is still incomplete (e.g., origin, transmission properties and ecology), suggesting that precautionary measures should be implemented to minimize human exposure.