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If deer become zombies

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If deer become zombies

Cases of the so-called “zombie deer” disease, a chronic wasting disease that could become a threat to other species, including humans, are increasing in the United States and Canada.

A name worthy of a film festival. In North America (and not only) the “zombie deer”.

This time, however, imagination has nothing to do with it. What strikes these specimens is the chronic wasting disease, a neurological pathology with an unfortunate outcome fatal.

It may sound familiar to some, because conceptually it is similar to the better known bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the so-called “mad cow disease”. Between symptoms there are: intense drooling, limping gait, blank stare, disorientation and lethargy.

The pathology is caused by prions, “wrong” proteins which are misconfigured and are unable to transmit the anomaly to healthy ones too. These proteins form aggregates in the central nervous system triggering degeneration. The problem is that it is a disease contagious – transmitted through saliva, blood, urine, and feces – and currently there are no cures.

At the moment, the disease is widespread especially in North America. According to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the disease has been found to date in 414 counties of 31 different American states. But some cases have also been found in the Scandinavian peninsula. News that greatly worries the scientific community, given the domino effect that problems of this kind cause on ecosystems. Deer, in fact, contribute to the balance of their habitat by grazing and moving, as well as being a source of food for other species.

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In addition to this, it scares the possibility that the disease could be a danger to other animal species, including humans. In fact, experiments have been conducted that have shown that the prions responsible can infect other laboratory animals and human cells in culture.

Don’t panic for the moment. There are no known cases of human encephalopathies attributable to the “zombie deer” disease. However, the threat remains, considering the frequent contacts that can exist between animals and humans, both indirectly through the environment and directly through the consumption of meat.

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