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Prion. 2008 Oct-Dec;2(4):162-9. Epub 2008 Oct 26.

Prions in the environment: occurrence, fate and mitigation.

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Department of Civil Engineering, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Peter Kiewit Institute, Omaha, Nebraska 68182-0178, USA.


Scrapie and CWD are horizontally transmissible, and the environment likely serves as a stable reservoir of infectious prions, facilitating a sustained incidence of CWD in free-ranging cervid populations and complicating efforts to eliminate disease in captive herds. Prions will enter the environment through mortalities and/or shedding from live hosts. Unfortunately, a sensitive detection method to identify prion contamination in environmental samples has not yet been developed. An environmentally-relevant prion model must be used in experimental studies. Changes in PrP(Sc) structure upon environmental exposure may be as significant as changes in PrP(Sc) quantity, since the structure can directly affect infectivity and disease pathology. Prions strongly bind to soil and remain infectious. Conformational changes upon adsorption, competitive sorption and potential for desorption and transport all warrant further investigation. Mitigation of contaminated carcasses or soil might be accomplished with enzyme treatments or composting in lieu of incineration.

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