Home » «Risks for humans». Is a species leap possible?

«Risks for humans». Is a species leap possible?

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«Risks for humans».  Is a species leap possible?

A new disease is spreading among animals in northern United States United States. The world of cinema and literature have always drawn from the real world, but this time the exact opposite seems to be happening. If in horror films human beings are infected by a disease that takes them to a purgatory between life and death and show terrible symptoms – frothing at the mouth, blank stare, unprecedented violence and hunger for human flesh – in the forests of Wyoming some of these symptoms have been found in more than 800 deer and elk specimens. This is why we talk about zombie deer disease.


Zombie deer disease

La CWD (chronic wasting disease) is a neurological pathology characterized by various symptoms, such as drooling, lethargy, stumbling and blank stare.

Prions are the basis of this disease.

The prion is a protein molecule with the ability to transmit its misfolded form to normal variants of the same brain protein, leading to neurological degeneration. This unique feature makes prion diseases particularly concerning. Prions are notoriously resistant and can persist in the environment for years, thwarting the usual traditional disinfection methods such as formaldehyde, radiation and incineration at extreme temperatures.

Risks for humans

Despite the absence of confirmed cases of CWD in humans, we read on The Conversation, concerns persist due to several factors. First, studies have shown that the prions responsible for CWD can infect and propagate in human cells, raising the specter of potential “species jumping.”

Second, humans are already exposed to potentially infected animals by hunting and eating them. Reports suggest that in 2017, between 7,000 and 15,000 CWD-infected animals were consumed by humans per year, an annual increase of 20%.

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Furthermore, the inherent difficulties associated with the detection and diagnosis of prion diseases in humans further complicate the situation. Unlike conventional infectious agents, prions do not trigger an immune response, making them difficult to detect by conventional means. This represents a significant obstacle to early intervention and containment efforts.

In Europa

In 2016, the disease was diagnosed in wild deer in Norway, marking the first cases of CWD in Europe. This development marks a potential spread of CWD and highlights the need for international cooperation to monitor and control the disease, the site highlights.

According to research, addressing the many challenges posed by CWD requires a comprehensive and coordinated approach. This includes strengthening surveillance and monitoring to follow the spread of the disease and implementing stringent biosecurity measures to prevent further transmission, such as controlling shifts in deer and moose populations, conducting regular testing to monitor the prevalence of the disease and the promotion of responsible hunting practices to minimize the risk of transmission.


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