New research has shown it is possible to destroy chronic wasting disease (CWD) prions that are bound to soil. This is good news for captive elk and deer ranchers whose lands are infected with the deadly neurological disease.
“Deer and elk can ingest or inhale prions in the environment making them susceptible to CWD,” states NWRC research wildlife biologist Dr. Kurt VerCauteren. “Having a decontaminant that could be used on soil in paddocks or barns, as well as on farm equipment and fences, would be invaluable.”
In a laboratory study, NWRC, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Creighton University scientists showed the commercially available subtilisin enzyme, Prionzyme, successfully degraded soil-bound and unbound CWD prions at normal environmental conditions (i.e., neutral pH and 22° Celsius/68° Fahrenheit). Researchers are hopeful that a topical application of this or other subtilisin enzyme solutions may be an effective decontamination method that helps to limit CWD transmission.