Flat Earth, CWD and other science
The best science available used to proclaim the sun rotated around Earth, which (at the time) was flat. Doctors used to think people caught colds from going outside in chilly weather. The bubonic plague was thought to be caused by malevolent vapors. Hillary Clinton was a shoe-in to become the president.
History is full of widely, almost unanimously accepted precepts that eventually proved to be dead wrong. Now there’s a new and contrarian explanation about the cause of chronic wasting disease in deer.
I’m not talking about good ol’ boy opinions about the disease being spread, fostered or over-hyped by (pick one) natural resource departments, anti-hunters, car insurance companies or big agriculture. This report comes from a respected researcher from Louisiana State University.
Since I first heard of CWD, it was always said, and I assumed had been “proven beyond all doubt,” to be caused by bits of a rogue protein called prions. Prions are neither living (like bacteria or viruses) or dead like poisons; rather, they are organic molecules capable of, well, no one knows for sure what they can or can’t do or how they accomplish what they do other than they cause CWD in deer, mad cow disease in cows, scrapies in sheep and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease in humans.
Dr. Frank Bastian, from the LSU AgCenter, postulates CWD specifically (and mad cow and the other prion diseases, by association) is actually caused by a not-so-common bacteria. He claims the prions don’t cause the disease, the relatively-easy-to-find prions are produced by animals infected with CWD bacteria. He says he knows what the disease bacteria is; his research is meant to find ways to grow the germs in a laboratory.
Once that’s done, research would be possible to eventually produce a test kit that hunters could use to quickly determine if their harvested deer has CWD. The test could also identify the disease in live animals, which would be useful to deer, elk and other cervid farmers. (CWD has spread around the country – and continues to spread – by legal or illegal trade in captive deer and elk herds.)
Farther down the road, there could be a cure for the disease in infected animals, as well as a vaccine of some sort that would immunize deer and potentially stop CWD in its tracks. Or, it could be that the world really is flat, eating carrots causes cancer, and the Lions will be in the Super Bowl next year.