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PLoS One. 2019 Aug 28;14(8):e0221654. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0221654. eCollection 2019.

Detection of CWD in cervids by RT-QuIC assay of third eyelids.

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Prion Research Center, Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, United States of America.
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Midwestern University, Glendale, Arizona, United States of America.


The diagnosis of chronic wasting disease (CWD) relies on demonstration of the disease-associated misfolded CWD prion protein (PrPCWD) in brain or retropharyngeal lymph node tissue by immunodetection methods, e.g. ELISA and immunohistochemistry (IHC). The success of these methods relies on a quality sample of tissues, which requires both anatomical knowledge and considerable dissection to collect. As the prevalence of CWD continues to increase globally, the development of fast and cost-effective methods to detect the disease is vital to facilitate CWD detection and surveillance. To address these issues, we have evaluated third eyelids from CWD-infected deer and elk using real-time quaking induced conversion (RT-QuIC). We identified prion seeding activity in third eyelids in 24 of 25 (96%) CWD-infected white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). We detected RT-QuIC positivity in the third eyelid as early as 1 month after experimental CWD exposure. In addition, we identified prion seeding activity in third eyelids of 18 of 25 (72%) naturally exposed asymptomatic CWD-positive rocky mountain elk (Cervus canadensis nelson). We compared CWD detection by RT-QuIC and IHC in third eyelid, retropharyngeal lymph node, and brain in 10 deer in early symptomatic stage of disease. IHC detected PrPCWD deposition in third eyelid lymphoid follicles in 5 of 10 deer (50%) whereas third eyelids of all 10 animals were positive by RT-QuIC. This difference reflected in part a lower requirement for lymphoid follicle presence for seeding activity detection by RT-QuIC. In conclusion, RT-QuIC analysis of the third eyelid, an easily accessed tissue, has potential to advance CWD detection and testing compliance.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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