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A vaccine for CWD?


Mule deer during winter
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Will a vaccine for chronic wasting disease (CWD) be here before we know it? Frank Bastion, an animal scientist at the Louisiana State University (LSU) AgCenter, has discovered a major breakthrough in the continuing saga of CWD, mad cow disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, according to an LSU press release.

Bastian, a neuropathologist, has created a way to grow the bacteria that causes these fatal diseases in his lab, which enables the possibility of developing tests and vaccines in the near future.

“This is really exciting news because this allows me to work on the bacteria, while other laboratories with access to chronic wasting disease-affected deer tissues can conduct research also,” said Bastian. “We need more laboratories involved with this approach.”

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With the rampant spread of CWD across western states, resulting recently in the announcement of a “special” CWD hunt in Montana that starts today, Bastian’s discovery has come at a critical time. While CWD and mad cow disease impact animals, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which affects humans, is the same disease and is “often undiagnosed in its early stages and identified in about 15 percent of Alzheimer’s patients,” LSU reports.

Bastian hopes to provide hunters with a test they can use in the field to determine if their harvest has been infected. Currently, CWD can only be confirmed in dead animals and most animals appear normal during the initial stages of infection, which means that it is possible that hunters could ingest infected meat. As in other articles we have covered related to CWD, it is prions that cause this disease, not a bacteria, so it will be interesting to see exactly how effective this new research will be.

“The problem that hunters face in eating potentially infected meat is that heat does not kill this bacteria,” said Bastian. “Eighty-five degrees centigrade does not affect it, and the bacteria survive up to boiling (100 degrees centigrade). This is significant because E. coli is dead at 80.”

While this discovery is still new, it means that potential vaccine and tests could be available within a few years for the public to use.


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Edward G. - posted 3 months ago on 12-17-2017 08:40:04 pm

To All hunters,
The truth is that prions are amyloid proteins that build up in the tissues of the CWD-affected deer. Amyloid proteins do not proliferate but can increase in amount biochemically. Bacteria can induce formation of these amyloid proteins. A professor at Yale has clearly shown that these amyloid proteins (prions) are not infectious.

My research shows that the cause of CWD is a tiny bacterium. We have now grown this bacterium in broth culture and on agar plates so we now can develop a diagnostic test. This will be very important for hunters since the deer shows at least a 10 month incubation period where the deer is infectious yet shows no clinical signs. There is no way that a hunter can recognize an infected deer until the last stages of the disease.
Dr. Frank Bastian

Edward G. - posted 3 months ago on 12-17-2017 03:48:41 pm

Dr. Bastian replies to Nikolas:
Vaccines are common in controlling bacterial diseases. Brucella is controlled by a vaccine. You all know about pneumococcal vaccine. There are no antibiiotics that kill spiroplasma. There is no workable diagnostic serological test for the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. CWD has been experimentally transferred to cattle so I wouldn’t be secure in any natural barrier to infection. The incubation period for CWD may last months. The animals appear normal during the first 10 months of the incubation period.

The importance of the article is that the causative spiroplasma can be cultured and studied. A diagnostic test is now possible so that the CWD-affected animals can be culled. The diseased animals will be recognized by a simple serological test to prevent what happened to your friends. The source of the organism in nature can now be determined. Since the spiroplasma forms colonies on agar plates, we can now determine sensitivity to new antibiotics. A preventive vaccine is now possible.

We need more laboratories working on this problem from this perspective and that is why I published the method of isolation so any researchers with access to CWD materials can contribute.
Dr. Frank Bastian

Nikolas D. - posted 3 months ago on 12-17-2017 03:12:40 pm

I misspoke. My training in med school and years of looking after human patients has given me a knee jerk reaction to every patient w a red eye or sore throat thinking that an antibiotic will fix most likely is a viral infection. All interesting replies and they have peaked my interest to dig into the research. That said, as far as I have gone previously is speaking to dnr agents and biologists here in IL and IA. Their agenda of wiping out the herd probably gets in the way of real science.

Edward G. - posted 3 months ago on 12-17-2017 02:23:28 pm

Thanks for the considerate reply. Yes, of course we have many miles to travel before spiroplasma are confirmed as the infective agent for all TSE and TSE-like diseases.

Many of your concerns have been dealt with by Dr. Bastian already through his many years of studying spiroplasma and the bacterial relationship between spiroplasma and
neurological diseases. All Dr. Bastian's research and discussions and interviews and related information (current news) can be found at his web site
Spend some time studying Dr. Bastian's meticulous research and I think most of your thoughtful questions will be answered.

Thomas Y. - posted 3 months ago on 12-17-2017 01:23:09 pm

To echo Edward G. there are many vaccines currently available that protect against bacterial infection such as pneumovax, prevnar, any meningitis vaccine, TDaP, etc. While this research is interesting and valuable, to go from growing the probable infectious source to having developed a viable vaccine to actually distributing and administering that vaccine is a road that is very windy and expensive.

There still needs to be verification that CWD is only caused or mostly caused by spiroplasma bacteria and not by other mechanisms causing the misfolding of protease causing prions.

There still needs to be complete verification of migration to humans or lack there of.

There still needs to be more epidemiological studies done to determine the wild carrying capacity in various populations of animals i.e. what is the actual transmission rate from cervid to cervid in each species (mule deer, elk, whitetail) for a given population density in a certain area). Not all exposed animals appear to develop CWD or many deer farms and wild populations would be wiped out already (CWD does not appear to be as contagious as EHD for example)

Will depopulation work to control or not (mostly has been proven ineffective as some states have tried to wipe out whitetail populations in infected areas only to have it spread still)

All of those points are important to consider when determining cost/benefit analysis of vaccine options as well as future implications of CWD

Edward G. - posted 3 months ago on 12-17-2017 12:50:06 pm

Antibiotics are effective after bacterial infection, while vaccines try to protect
before infection. It appears that TSE diseases are difficult to cure once infection has
taken place. If history is considered, once a herd or flock is infected, eventually all will become infected.
It seems to be difficult to be infected via eating infected food, but it has happened.
The disease takes several years to become apparent, so just because there are no symptoms yet, doesn't mean the TSE infection hasn't occurred.

"Most vaccines against bacterial infections are effective at preventing disease
• Reactions can occur after vaccinations
• Vaccines are available against tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type B, cholera, typhoid, and Streptococcus pneumoniae."
Thanks for responding,

Nikolas D. - posted 3 months ago on 12-17-2017 07:37:11 am

A vaccine for a bacteria.......... That’s not the way medicine works. Antibiotics for bacteria, vaccines for viruses. The last research I read, suggested the ingestion of meat from a cwd infected animal would not cause human transmission. Eating neural tissue like the brain, brainstem or spinal cord would however cause human infection. I’ve personally known 2 people who have harvested and ingested cwd deer here in IL. Both are alive and well. By the time the DNR, notified them that their harvest was positive, just about the whole deer had been consumed. When I started reading the article I immediately was hopeful that a cure was coming, so that IL and surrounding states would stop the baiting and latewinter sniper shoots to reduce the herd. No such luck.......

Marshal L. - posted 3 months ago on 12-16-2017 07:30:34 pm

quote from a D&DH article. “ Today, 99 percent of scientists believe prions cause CWD – Dr. Frank Bastian isn’t one of them.”. Now this article makes sense.

Edward G. - posted 3 months ago on 12-16-2017 07:12:31 am

Prions are not the cause of TSE/CWD, they are the result of infection by spiroplasma(bacteria). Visit for more information on Dr. Bastian's research.
Ed Gehrman

Curt B. - posted 3 months ago on 12-15-2017 02:33:26 pm

Brady, thanks for the follow up. The Facebook post is extremely interesting, and goes to show that we still have a lot to learn about CWD. If there's a bacterial component to CWD manifestation it might provide some additional options for treatment/prevention. Look forward to hearing more. Thanks again.

Brady Miller
Brady M. - posted 3 months ago on 12-15-2017 02:11:24 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Also, a great comment was posted on our Facebook page earlier. You can see the post here:

Patrick B. made this comment: "Ok, so this was also news to me, the link between this spiroplasma bacteria and CWD. This researcher cited in the article published a paper in 2007 in the Journal of Microbiology. From the abstract:
Spiroplasma spp. isolates from scrapie-affected sheep brain and from CWD-affected deer brain inoculated Intra Cranially into sheep and goats induced spongiform encephalopathy closely resembling natural TSE in these animals. These data show spiroplasma to be consistently associated with TSE, and able experimentally to cause TSE in ruminant animal models, therein questioning the validity of studies that have concluded the prion, a miss-folded
protease-resistant protein that builds up in TSE brains during the course of the disease, to be the sole causal agent.;jsessionid=2VoI3-JdivtgkkRMJGp9POrD.x-sgm-live-03 BUT this is controversial "

Brady Miller
Brady M. - posted 3 months ago on 12-15-2017 02:07:42 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Hey Curt and Marshal... I also found it interesting that the researcher kept referring to it as a bacteria and not prions. There is a section in the bottom of the article where we briefly called that out because this research struck me as odd too.

This article came from a press release from LSU where their researchers mentioned bacteria, so that is why we kept it in there. I'll be following this closely like I do other CWD research and we will definitely cover more on this subject.

Marshal L. - posted 3 months ago on 12-15-2017 01:52:57 pm

Yeah this is a very flawed article. CWD is not a bacteria.

Curt B. - posted 3 months ago on 12-15-2017 01:28:44 pm

Shouldn't this article be referencing prions (ie. Protein) and not bacteria? If a vaccine were on the horizon that would be outstanding, but curious about the mistake above?