Alberta Innovates investing $1.25M in research on chronic wasting disease
by CM Staff
Five projects – three at the University of Alberta and two at the University of Calgary – were chosen from seven proposals
EDMONTON — Alberta Innovates is investing $1.25 million in research to understand and address the increasing spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD). This prion disease, seen in Canada, the United States and elsewhere, threatens the agriculture industry, the environment and potentially human health.
CWD is a progressive, fatal nervous system disease caused by prion proteins in the brain that infect animals such as deer, elk and moose in the wild, and can spread to farmed elk and deer. Prions shed by infected animals through their feces, urine and saliva remain infectious in soil for many years, posing a risk of environmental transmission to other cervids. There is also concern CWD might be transmissible to other wild animal species and livestock, and to humans who consume infected meat.
Five projects – three at the University of Alberta and two at the University of Calgary – were chosen from seven proposals submitted to the Alberta Innovates Chronic Wasting Disease Research Program.
Two projects focus on vaccine development to prevent CWD infections, including a vaccine to prevent the potential spread to caribou, an important food source for Indigenous and northern communities. Three other projects will study various aspects of the transmissibility and progression of CWD – e.g., if it can spread from cervids to other species, the rate of spread, and whether CWD prions could bind with vegetation and contaminate animal forage and Alberta crops.
“The aggressive rate of transmission of CWD poses the risk that this disease could soon grow to levels where deer populations will significantly decline and CWD is introduced into new geographical regions, including the ranges of Alberta’s at-risk woodland caribou herds. Research to better understand the disease and advance the development of an effective vaccine will support other science-based strategies used by Environment and Parks to limit the prevalence and spread of CWD in Alberta’s wildlife populations.” said Jason Nixon, Minister, Alberta Environment and Parks.
“Alberta Innovates is committed to supporting chronic wasting disease research to mitigate the spread and understand the transmissibility of the disease. Research in vaccine development and spread of the disease is underway to protect wild and domestic animals as a food source, the environment and the agriculture industry.” said Laura Kilcrease, CEO, Alberta Innovates.