Biopsy of rectal mucosa–associated lymphoid tissue provides a useful, but imperfect, live-animal test for chronic wasting disease (CWD) in mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus). It is difficult and expensive to complete these tests on free-ranging animals, and wildlife health managers will benefit from methods that can accommodate test results of varying quality. To this end, we developed a hierarchical Bayesian model to estimate the probability that an individual is infected based on test results. Our model was estimated with the use of data on 210 adult female mule deer repeatedly tested during 2010−14. The ability to identify infected individuals correctly declined with age and may have been influenced by repeated biopsy. Fewer isolated lymphoid follicles (where PrPCWD accumulates) were obtained in biopsies of older deer and the proportion of follicles showing PrPCWD was reduced. A deer's genotype in the prion gene (PRNP) also influenced detection. At least five follicles were needed in a biopsy to assure a 95% accurate test in PRNP genotype 225SS deer.
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Vol. 51 • No. 4