Spread of Chronic Wasting Disease

Funding: Genome Canada, Alberta Prion Institute – BioInnovates , Alberta Conservation Association

The increasing spatial extent of CWD is a growing concern because of its potential effects on cervid populations and the subsequent ecological and socio-economic consequences for humans. Given that patterns of susceptibility to CWD are based on PrP polymorphisms in cervids, this project uses the information from genotyping hunter-harvested deer to extend our past modeling efforts to evaluate the importance of PrP genetics and prion strains compared to other factors (e.g., animal densities, proximity to known sources, landscape connectivity) in detecting of CWD occurrence, and  produce spatial risk maps for CWD risk in Alberta and Saskatchewan for prioritizing CWD surveillance and predicting new areas to which it is likely to spread within set time periods. We will use a hierarchical Bayesian modeling approach (to assess the relative strength of deer-related (age, sex, and PrP polymorphisms), environmental factors (deer density, vegetation, soils, landscape features, and connectivity to CWD sources based deer movements for predicting probability of a hunter-harvested deer being CWD infected. We will roduce spatial risk maps for CWD risk for prioritizing CWD surveillance and predicting new areas to which it is likely to spread within set time periods.  The spread model will use 36-km2 hexagonal spatial units. Data on PrP polymorphisms will come from past (~ 1000 mule deer, and new tissue collections (~1000/yr for 4 yrs = ~4000) associated with the AB and SK government surveillance programs.

For more information on this project, please visit our Alberta Chronic Wasting Disease website.