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What causes chronic wasting disease?

Although debate still occurs, the vast majority of research indicates that the causative agent of chronic wasting disease is a misfolded protein called a prion. All mammals produce normal prions (abbreviated PrP) that are used by cells, then degraded and eliminated, or recycled, within the body. When disease-associated prions (PrPCWD) contact normal prions, they cause them to refold into the abnormal shape. These disease-associated prions are not readily broken down and tend to accumulate in lymphatic and neural tissues. Tissue damage associated with PrPCWD accumulation in the brain results in a sponge-like appearance, microscopically.

 

Learn more: USGS Fact Sheet on chronic wasting disease

Tags: Animals