Blood and saliva of deer with chronic wasting disease carry infectious prions that can easily transmit the disease to other deer, new research shows (Mathiason CK et al. Science. 2006;314:133-136). The results help explain why chronic wasting disease—a degenerative, neurological disease found in deer, elk, and moose—is more easily spread between animals than is the related bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease. The findings indicate that particular care should be taken when handling body fluids from prion-infected animals. Prion diseases, also called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, include scrapie in sheep, bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cows, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. Whether chronic wasting disease is transmissible to humans, as has been shown for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is unknown.
Hampton T. Prions Found in Deer Body Fluids. JAMA. 2006;296(21):2543. doi:10.1001/jama.296.21.2543