How is CWD detected?
Clinical signs of CWD alone are not conclusive, and there is currently no practical live animal test. Currently, the only conclusive diagnosis involves an examination of the brain, tonsils or lymph nodes performed after death.
A definitive diagnosis is based on examination of the brain for the characteristic microscopic spongiform lesions and/or accumulation of the CWD associated prion protein in brain and lymphoid tissues using a technique called immunohistochemistry. Gross lesions seen at necropsy reflect the clinical signs of CWD, primarily emaciation. Aspiration pneumonia, which may be the actual cause of death, also is a common finding in animals affected with CWD.
Research is being conducted to develop live-animal diagnostic tests for CWD. Early results indicate that new live-test utilizing tissues from an animal’s tonsils may be viable in deer, but so far has been ineffective in elk.
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