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Plants as vectors for environmental prion transmission

November 10, 2023

Prions cause fatal neurodegenerative diseases and exhibit remarkable durability, which engenders a wide array of potential exposure scenarios. In chronic wasting disease of deer, elk, moose, and reindeer and in scrapie of sheep and goats, prions are transmitted via environmental routes and the ability of plants to accumulate and subsequently transmit prions has been hypothesized, but not previously demonstrated. Here, we establish the ability of several crop and other plant species to take up prions via their roots and translocate them to above-ground tissues from various growth media including soils. We demonstrate that plants can accumulate prions in above-ground tissues to levels sufficient to transmit disease after oral ingestion by mice. Our results suggest plants may serve as vectors for prion transmission in the environment—a finding with implications for wildlife conservation, agriculture, and public health.

Publication Year 2023
Title Plants as vectors for environmental prion transmission
DOI 10.1016/j.isci.2023.108428
Authors Christina M. Carlson, Samuel Thomas, Matthew W. Keating, Nicole M. Gibbs, Haeyoon Chang, Jamie K. Wiepz, Annabel G. Austin, Jay R. Schneider, Christopher J. Johnson, Joel A. Pedersen
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title iScience
Index ID 70250525
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wildlife Health Center; Office of Science Quality and Integrity