OAHN Wildlife Network Research Project: Characterizing the spatial patterns of chronic wasting disease susceptibility in white-tailed deer

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Project Members:

Trent University
Aaron Shafer
Sarah Haworth
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Joseph Northrup
Larissa Nituch
Brent Patterson

OAHN Wildlife Network Research Project 2018-2019: Characterizing the spatial patterns of chronic wasting disease susceptibility in white-tailed deer

Executive Summary

White-tailed deer occupy a diverse array of landscapes and have been expanding their range in Ontario; this popular big-game species harbors an array of zoonotic and potentially zoonotic diseases. One notable disease is the transmissible spongiform encephalopathy known as chronic wasting disease (CWD). Two important developments have made monitoring the CWD prion of importance to Ontario: i) the detection of CWD in nearly all bordering jurisdictions; and ii) the recent transmission of CWD to nonhuman primates, suggesting human populations could be susceptible. There is a genetic basis (i.e. the PRNP gene) for the susceptibility and expression of symptoms of CWD in white-tailed deer, the spatial patterns of which could influence spread of the disease; however, the prevalence and spatial patterning of variants of the PRNP gene have not been characterized in Ontario. We sequenced the PRNP gene and quantified variation in white-tailed deer in Ontario. We spatially characterized this variation (main deliverable) and characterized variation relative to other regions with and without CWD. Variation in four known positions (referred to as SNPs) with links to reduced expression of CWD symptoms did not vary across the province and are consistent with populations that have no or recent detections of CWD. Our bioinformatic pipeline that streamlines analysis will be made publicly available, facilitating future assessments. We discuss how these data and information can be integrated into the OMNRF CWD surveillance program; specifically, we recommend continued sampling of tissue for CWD detection and continued genotyping in high-risk areas (i.e. southeastern Ontario). Further, we discuss how these findings can be used to better plan for the potential for future detections of CWD in Ontario.


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