Detection of chronic wasting disease prions in fetal tissues of free-ranging white-tailed deer

Amy V. Nalls, Erin E. McNulty, Amber Mayfield, James M. Crum, Michael K. Keel, Edward A. Hoover, Mark G. Ruder, Candace K. Mathiason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The transmission of chronic wasting disease (CWD) has largely been attributed to contact with infectious prions shed in excretions (saliva, urine, feces, blood) by direct animal-to-animal exposure or indirect contact with the environment. Less-well studied has been the role that mother-to-offspring transmission may play in the facile transmission of CWD, and whether mother-to-offspring transmission before birth may contribute to the extensive spread of CWD. We thereby focused on a population of free-ranging white-tailed deer from West Virginia, USA, in which CWD has been detected. Fetal tissues, ranging from 113 to 158 days of gestation, were harvested from the uteri of CWD+ dams in the asymptomatic phase of infection. Using serial protein misfolding amplification (sPMCA), we detected evidence of prion seeds in 7 of 14 fetuses (50%) from 7 of 9 pregnancies (78%), with the earliest detection at 113 gestational days. This is the first report of CWD detection in free ranging white-tailed deer fetal tissues. Further investigation within cervid populations across North America will help define the role and impact of mother-to-offspring vertical transmission of CWD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2430
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Chronic wasting disease
  • Fetal tissues
  • Mother-to-offspring transmission
  • Prions
  • RT-QuIC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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