Health professionals have been wondering if people eating Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) infected animals could also be infected by the brain-wasting disease. A 13-year-study at Hamilton's Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) showed no such transmission - using macaque monkeys. The macaques are genetically similar to humans and are susceptible to many of the same prion-based diseases, according to a report published in the Journal of Virology.

Deer, elk and moose have been found to be infected with CWD in 25 U.S. states since 1967. Just last year, the fatal disease was confirmed by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in a small number of deer in Montana. According to Ken Pekoc in a news release from Rocky Mountain lab, researchers exposed 14 macaques - orally and cerebrally - to CWD-infected brain matter from deer and elk. The scientists then monitored those monkeys for up to 13 years, since some prion diseases take up to a decade to appear after initial infection. None of the monkeys showed evidence of a transmission, according to the report.

This flies in the face of an earlier small study which showed some transmission has been observed. RML researchers used several tests, including the RT-QulC assay, developed by Hamilton investigators. Though the study showed negative transmission, scientists still suggest people should not eat meat from game animals that appear thin or ill, or have tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease, just to be safe.

Prion diseases have become a main area of study at the Hamilton labs, which are part of the the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Similar human prion neurological diseases include kuru and Creutzfeldt Jakob disease. The article in the Journal of Virology is "Lack of Transmission of Chronic Wasting Disease to Cynomolgus Macaques."

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