We monitored a herd of fallow deer (Dama dama) for evidence of prion infection for 7 yr by periodic postmortem examination of animals from the herd. The fallow deer were exposed to the chronic wasting disease (CWD) agent from mule deer by living in a paddock considered contaminated with infectivity from its history of housing CWD infected deer and, after the first year of the study, by comingling with infected mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus). At least 8 of 12 mule deer serving as sentinels for prion transmission and 25 additional mule deer serving as sources of infectivity developed clinical CWD or were otherwise confirmed to be infected with CWD via lymphoid tissue immunohistochemistry (IHC). In contrast, none of the 41 exposed fallow deer showed clinical signs suggestive of CWD, IHC staining of disease-associated prion in lymphoid or brain tissues, or evidence of spongiform degeneration in sections of brain stem at the level of the obex when sampled 18 mo to 7 yr after entering the mule deer paddock. The absence of clinical disease and negative IHC results in fallow deer housed in the same contaminated paddock for up to 7 yr and almost continuously exposed to CWD-infected mule deer for up to 6 yr suggests a species barrier or other form of resistance preventing fallow deer infection by the CWD agent or delaying progression of the disease in this species.
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Vol. 47 • No. 3