Ticks might be spreading CWD

A study of deer in Wisconsin reveals how the prion disease may move between hosts

Ticks may be responsible for spreading the deadly chronic wasting disease between deer. Research in Wisconsin has shown that the prions that cause chronic wasting disease can pass through the bodies of black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) after they ingest blood from white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). The research, published recently in Scientific Reports, also determined that the ticks can carry transmissible levels prions in their blood meal. They could pass this to other deer via certain social behavior, like grooming.

“Deer will groom one another to get places that they can’t reach on their own through self-grooming,” Heather Inzalaco, a researcher with the Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, said. In this grooming process, they may eat ticks full of CWD prions.

“Just like a little CWD tic-tac,” she said.

Read more at U.S. News & World Report.

Header Image: Deer may ingest ticks infested with chronic wasting disease while grooming each other. Credit: University of Wisconsin–Madison