Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is ravaging wildlife in many regions across North America and now Scandinavia. It’s part of a larger epidemic of neurological disease that is killing millions of people, wildlife and livestock around the world. Once again, wildlife are serving as the proverbial canary in a coal mine.
CWD is part of an incurable spectrum disease called transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). The operative word is “transmissible.” Mismanagement of pathogens associated with the disease are contributing to a broader epidemic of neurological disease among wildlife, livestock and people.
TSEs, including chronic wasting disease, are caused by a deadly protein called a prion(PREE-on). Prion disease is unstoppable. Prions defy all attempts at sterilization and inactivation. Victims can spread the disease even further via their bodily fluids and cell tissue. Victims often are contagious long before they appear sick. Their saliva, urine, blood and feces, for example, spread the pathogen further every day. Prions linger in the environment and on objects infinitely. They migrate, mutate, multiply and kill with unparalleled efficiency. Because of the dynamics, Canada has declared CWD unstoppable.
Although there are many causes and pathways contributing to CWD and the prion disease epidemic, many pathways are being mismanaged around the globe. Thanks to sewage, biosolids, reclaimed sewage water and feedlot waste, we’re recycling the prion pathogen that causes neurological disease right back into our watersheds, which we share with deer, elk, moose, livestock and other creatures that are vulnerable to prion disease. Rain, wind and irrigation spread deadly prions further everyday. Healthy wildlife are being exposed to deadly prions through food, water, air and contact with infected animals.
Every sewage system in the world has been used by a person, if not millions of people, with Alzheimer’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Sewage systems have become prion incubators. Biosolids, water reuse and sewage sludge disposal have made them potent prion distributors. The waste from feedlots is likely contributing to the problem as well.
Although there are multiple causes of prion disease, including Alzheimer’s disease and CWD, reckless policies are contributing to an environmental nightmare. Sick deer, elk, moose and other wildlife and marine life are just a symptom of a much bigger problem. Putting these Pandora-like pathogens back in the box is impossible. However, that is not a license to dump them right into the lifecycle.
Gary Chandler is a prion expert. He is the CEO of Crossbow Communications, author of several books and producer of documentaries about health and environmental issues around the world. Chandler is connecting the dots to the global surge in neurodegenerative disease, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and other forms of prion disease. The scientific name for prion disease is transmissible spongiform encephalopathy. The operative word is “transmissible.”