IL: CWD toolbox gets another big wrench

Springfield – As Illinois hunters cross fingers during yet
another season of testing, Canadian scientists continue to work on
what they believe to be a potential vaccine for chronic wasting
disease.

At a workshop in Wisconsin earlier this fall, Dr. Scott Napper
provided background on the development of a vaccine that induces
strong immune responses specific for the misfolded form of the
prion protein that causes CWD in deer and elk. Napper, who heads up
the research team from the Vaccine and Infectious Disease
Organization and International Vaccine Center at the University of
Saskatchewan that discovered the vaccine, was a guest of Safari
Club International, which organized the workshop.

Those in attendance emphasized that there is a long way to go
before a viable vaccine might be available.

“There are many potential hurdles to overcome before a vaccine
is available for treating wild deer where CWD currently exists, but
we are excited that policy makers are taking a serious look at the
potential of this discovery,” said Mike Christianson, vice
president of SCI.

Thus far, Napper said, efforts at producing a vaccine for CWD
have produced a “robust immune response.” An inject-able form of
the vaccine has already been achieved, he reported, suggesting that
the development of an oral vaccine holds promise.

An adequate level of “specificity” also has been achieved,
according to Napper, meaning that the vaccine only targets the
misfolded prion. The Canadian team acknowledged they are at least
four years away from having an oral vaccine ready for distribution,
but they’re optimistic about the potential.

“It’ll be another tool in the fight against CWD,” Napper said.
“Sometimes you need a variety of tools to work with.”

A vaccine could play an important part in control of CWD.

In Illinois, DNR has reported 294 positive cases of CWD since
2002. A total of 37 positive cases were reported during the most
recent testing year ending June 30. That was out of 6,734 samples
from Illinois deer tested.

Seventeen of the 37 CWD-positive deer originated from the
primary “hot spot” located northeast of Rockford along the
Winnebago-Boone county line, while 18 additional positives were
found in the Kishwaukee River drainage to the east.

Only two CWD-positive deer were identified west of Rockford, but
one of those represents the westernmost CWD location found to
date.

Surveillance in LaSalle and Ogle counties uncovered no positive
cases.

“There is no evidence of significant disease spread, and the
number of CWD-positive deer identified annually has been down since
a peak in 2005-06,” DNR stated in its annual report.

Neighboring states are dealing with the CWD fears, including
Iowa, which began testing deer heads this deer season.

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