We compared mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) of two different PRNP genotypes (225SS, 225FF) for susceptibility to chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the face of environmental exposure to infectivity. All three 225SS deer had immunohistochemistry (IHC)-positive tonsil biopsies by 710 days postexposure (dpe), developed classic clinical signs by 723–1,200 dpe, and showed gross and microscopic pathology, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) results, and IHC staining typical of prion disease in mule deer. In contrast, although all three 225FF deer also became infected, the two individuals surviving >720 dpe had consistently negative biopsies, developed more-subtle clinical signs of CWD, and died 924 or 1,783 dpe. The 225FF deer were “suspect” by ELISA postmortem but showed negative or equivocal IHC staining of lymphoid tissues; both clinically affected 225FF deer had spongiform encephalopathy in the absence of IHC staining in the brain tissue. The experimental cases resembled three cases encountered among five additional captive 225FF deer that were not part of our experiment but also died from CWD. Aside from differences in clinical disease presentation and detection, 225FF mule deer also showed other, more-subtle, atypical traits that may help to explain the rarity of this genotype in natural populations, even in the presence of enzootic CWD.
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Vol. 50 • No. 3