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post #1 of 39 (permalink) Old 02-05-2019, 07:46 PM Thread Starter
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New CWD Test

Scientists at the University of Minnesota have asked state lawmakers for almost $2 million to create a new test for chronic wasting disease, or CWD.

Current testing methods for CWD the always fatal infection recently found in the wild deer herds of southeastern Minnesota is laborious. But the new testing methods could be a gamechanger: It would be much faster than the current one, and more crucially, it could be done on living deer.

Earlier: Minnesota officials call for federal help to combat fatal deer disease
Jeremy Schefers runs CWD testing at the University of Minnesota where the two-week, 40-step process begins in a basement lab.

This machine runs the samples through a bath of red dye
Samples of deer brain and lymph nodes are soaked in formaldehyde, then dehydrated with alcohol, saturated with paraffin wax, and shaved into slivers just five microns thick. This machine runs the samples through a bath of red dye, which only sticks to the misfolded proteins, called prions, that cause chronic wasting disease. John Enger | MPR News
"This is the veterinary diagnostic lab," he says. "We get every species of animal, except humans.

Out in the middle of a concrete floor is a very large, very dead horse. It's being autopsied. This is totally normal, apparently. Schefers doesn't even mention the horse. Instead he pulls a pair of severed deer heads out of a black plastic bag.

"It is one of the coldest days of the year, and the heads are frozen," he said.

Once the heads thaw, in two or three days, he'll surgically remove pieces of the brain and lymph nodes.

"And they have to sit in formaldehyde for five days," he explained. "And you can't rush that process either."

Schefer squints through a microscope, looking for any sign of CWD
The two-week testing process ends in Jeremy Schefer's office, where he squints through a microscope, looking for any sign of the disease. John Enger | MPR News
Then he'll dehydrate them with alcohol, saturate them with paraffin wax, and shave off slivers just five microns thick.

"That's the width of a red blood cell," he said.

They'll be run through a bath of red dye, which only sticks to the misfolded proteins, called prions, that cause CWD.

And finally, two weeks after a deer head arrives at the U of M, Schefers squints through a microscope in his office for hour after hour, looking for traces of the disease.

Schefers admits to eyestrain "and a chronic headache and lower backache."

Red dye used in the testing process only sticks to the misfolded proteins
Red dye used in the testing process only sticks to the misfolded proteins, called prions, that cause chronic wasting disease. John Enger | MPR News
But that's not his biggest concern.

"What I find even more maddening is I've been doing this for 10 years and all I've done is watch CWD march across North America, with kind of a helpless feeling," he said. "There's a better way to do this. This is just borderline ridiculous," he said.

And now, it seems, there really could be a better way. On the same campus, research professor Peter Larsen is assembling a team that hopes to create a totally new test a faster one, which could put wildlife managers in a position to get ahead of the disease, instead of just reacting to it.

Larsen wants to ditch the formaldehyde and red dye and use a hand-held device called a flow cell.

"Think of an iPhone and on one end, you have the camera" he said. "With a flow cell, you would take your biological sample and you would put a drop of it on that camera lens. And then the device will take that drop and circulate it throughout the environment we are going to create, and by the time it gets to the other end of the phone you will have your answer."

Research professor Peter Larsen holds a DNA sequencer
Research professor Peter Larsen is assembling a team that hopes to create a totally new, faster chronic wasting disease test. He said it will be about as big as the DNA sequencer, resting here, in the palm of his hand. John Enger | MPR News
Flow cells are being used to research Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease in humans. But a similar machine could be modified to incubate those misfolded CWD prions, then detect them using nanotechnology.

The test would take maybe an hour or two, instead of two weeks. And it wouldn't require pieces of brain. Just some urine, or saliva, or even deer droppings all easy to collect from living deer.

The scientists' funding request has just gone to the Minnesota Legislature. If Larsen's team gets the money, he says it hopes to create a working prototype in about two years.

It's hard to oversell just how important this test could be. Right now, Larsen said, the Department of Natural Resources doesn't actually have a very good idea of where CWD is, geographically, because of the testing lag time and the reality that deer are always moving.

CWD containment efforts are often based on where infected animals have been shot during hunting season. Larson said that's for too inexact to be effective.

"They look at the nearest case that's confirmed. And they say, 'OK, that's where it is.' That's not where it is. That's where it was," Larsen said.

Deer can be infected for two years before the disease kills them. That whole time, they're shedding proteins that can infect others. Even if the DNR knows where a sick animal died, they don't know where it's been.

With the new test, Larsen said, DNR researchers could reasonably hike through vast swaths of land, taking hundreds of samples of deer droppings and even antler velvet, and test them on the spot.

"It can provide real time surveillance, and that's critical," Larsen said. "I call it the CWD battlefield, and anyone with a military background will tell you, you have to have an understanding of what that front line looks like. And right now, we don't know that."

https://www.mprnews.org/story/2019/0...isease-testing

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post #2 of 39 (permalink) Old 02-05-2019, 08:18 PM
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That is a lot of money to spend on an enemy that to date cannot be stopped. It sounds to me like a way for a university to obtain money for research that really will not do anything except to tell you that CWD is spreading which is already known. This is what universities do and many professors jobs are dependent on obtaining grants for research or they are gone. This no more than research for the sake of research and the results don't matter, only the money to finance the research matters to the people running the research.
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post #3 of 39 (permalink) Old 02-05-2019, 08:25 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Woods walker View Post
That is a lot of money to spend on an enemy that to date cannot be stopped. It sounds to me like a way for a university to obtain money for research that really will not do anything except to tell you that CWD is spreading which is already known. This is what universities do and many professors jobs are dependent on obtaining grants for research or they are gone. This no more than research for the sake of research and the results don't matter, only the money to finance the research matters to the people running the research.
Did you read the entire article? I think there are a few key points if what is said is true. 1. It can be done on live animals. 2. It can even be done on deer droppings, so testing could be done in the wild without killing deer to test for it. 3. The test is quick so hunters would get results quickly to know if their deer has it.
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post #4 of 39 (permalink) Old 02-05-2019, 10:07 PM
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And in government terms, 2 million is nothing for 2 years of work. Full time equivalent senior subject matter experts are normally in the 200-250k range and get a couple of them for two years that is actually not a bad price while leveraging the academic community to do a lot of the leg work.
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post #5 of 39 (permalink) Old 02-05-2019, 10:21 PM
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Did you read the entire article? I think there are a few key points if what is said is true. 1. It can be done on live animals. 2. It can even be done on deer droppings, so testing could be done in the wild without killing deer to test for it. 3. The test is quick so hunters would get results quickly to know if their deer has it.

its all speculation. they dont even know if they can do it.


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The scientists' funding request has just gone to the Minnesota Legislature. If Larsen's team gets the money, he says it hopes to create a working prototype in about two years.

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post #6 of 39 (permalink) Old 02-06-2019, 06:47 AM
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There is a better way. Shut down all captive breeding operations, have the owners double fence the land and never allow it anything on it again. Spending any money to save captive deer will do noting to prevent the disease in the wild because you cannot vaccinate wild herds of deer. These fools left the genie out of the bottle, let them pay for what they did. They don't care, that is why they lobbied to be taken away from control of an agency that was trying to keep the genie contained. They should all go broke!
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post #7 of 39 (permalink) Old 02-06-2019, 07:06 AM
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Hey, I hope there's something to this theory. Sure would be nice to hear something positive other than "we still don't know much about CWD" that we've heard since the 80's. I'm not going to hold my breath, but I'm hoping.

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post #8 of 39 (permalink) Old 02-06-2019, 07:33 AM
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I would not save my money for a success party.

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post #9 of 39 (permalink) Old 02-06-2019, 08:09 AM
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Researchers want $2 million from the state to fund development of another testing protocol. I don't see a problem with that?

Here in PA, PGC has already spent $3 million of our Game Fund dollars on testing/coping with the spread of CWD, with nearly zero help from our state government's funds.

Since there is actually a connection between CWD and commercial deer farming, wouldn't one think perhaps the state should be kicking in some funding, since deer farming is under the purview of the Dept of Agriculture, not the PGC?

Where is the money from AG, or the general fund, to help testing and the attempts at controlling the spread of CWD in PA?

Back when the General Assembly gave control of deer farming to AG, I don't think they even increased their annual appropriation enough, for them to deal with overseeing it?

Now faced with the spread of CWD in captive herds and in wild deer, isn't it time for the state to step up?

They have now been asked by PFSC and other sportsmen's interests, to do so.

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post #10 of 39 (permalink) Old 02-06-2019, 08:58 AM
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If it is possible, developing a test that could concousively determine the presence of CWD in a live deer or a less time consuming version would be very beneficial to researchers, agencies monitoring the spread of disease as well as hunters that are concerned about ingesting contaminated meat. The current test is labor intensive as lymph nodes and he brain stem have to be properly extracted from the animal and then stored in formaldehyde. The whole process takes a minimum of 2 weeks. Researching new testing methods would be beneficial for all parties involved, good luck to the researchers in Minnesota.
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