Trace mineral imbalances have been suggested as having a causative or contributory role in chronic wasting disease (CWD), a prion disease of several North American cervid species. To begin exploring relationships between tissue mineral concentrations and CWD in natural systems, we measured liver tissue concentrations of copper, manganese, and molybdenum in samples from 447 apparently healthy, adult (≥2 yr old) mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) culled or vehicle killed from free-ranging populations in north-central Colorado, United States, where CWD occurs naturally; we also measured copper concentrations in brain-stem (medulla oblongata at the obex) tissue from 181 of these deer. Analyses revealed a wide range of concentrations of all three minerals among sampled deer (copper: 5.6–331 ppm in liver, 1.5–31.9 ppm in obex; manganese: 0.1–21.4 ppm in liver; molybdenum: 0.5–4.0 ppm in liver). Bayesian multiple regression analysis revealed a negative association between obex copper (−0.097; 95% credible interval −0.192 to −0.006) and the probability of sampled deer also being infected with CWD, as well as a positive association between liver manganese (0.158; 95% credible interval 0.066 to 0.253) and probability of infection. We could not discern whether the tendencies toward lower brain-stem copper concentrations or higher systemic manganese concentrations in infected deer preceded prion infection or rather were the result of infection and its subsequent effects, although the distribution of trace mineral concentrations in infected deer seemed more suggestive of the latter.
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Vol. 46 • No. 3