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Reduction of Chronic Wasting Disease Prion Seeding Activity following Digestion by Mountain Lions

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Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a transmissible prion disease first observed in the 1960s in North America. This invariably fatal disease affects multiple cervid species in the wild and in captivity. In addition to the several known transmission pathways involving cervid host species, prions have been detected in the feces of crows and coyotes after consumption of experimentally spiked tissues. This raises questions about the role of cervid consumers in the perpetuation of CWD. Mountain lions have been shown to preferentially select CWD-infected prey and are also apparently resistant to infection. In this study, two captive mountain lions were fed ground mule deer muscle tissue spiked with brain-derived CWD prions, and lion feces were collected for 1 week afterward. The input brain and resulting fecal materials were analyzed using the highly sensitive real-time quaking-induced conversion (RT-QuIC) assay to quantify prion seeding activity. We recovered only 2.8 to 3.9% of input CWD prions after passage through the mountain lions’ gastrointestinal tracts. Interestingly, CWD prions were shed only in the first defecation following consumption. Our data support the possibility that mountain lions feeding upon infected carcasses could excrete CWD prions in their feces over a short period of time but also suggest that most of the ingested prions are eliminated or sequestered by this large predator.

Document: Baune-Wolfe-2021-mountain-lion-digestion.pdf  PDF icon

Author(s): Chase Baune, Lisa L. Wolfe, Kristen C. Schott, Karen A. Griffin, Andrew G. Hughson, Michael W. Miller, Brent Racea

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