Frequently Asked Questions

Chronic Wasting Disease

What is it?

  • Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a contagious, fatal brain disease affecting wild and farmed cervids such as deer, moose, elk, caribou, and reindeer. The disease is caused by prions, protein material within a deer, that, when folded incorrectly, becomes infectious. 

What are the symptoms of CWD?

  • CWD-positive deer can appear healthy for a long time. It may take over a year before an infected deer shows symptoms, which can include drastic weight loss (wasting), stumbling, inactivity, and loss of fear of humans. Deer also become thin, drink and urinate excessively, have poor balance and coordination, lack body fat, have drooping ears, and difficulty swallowing. Inability to swallow leads to pneumonia and death.

How is CWD transmitted?

  • Prions survive for a long time in the environment. They are spread through an infected animal’s saliva, blood, feces, urine, and antler velvet. The remains of an animal that dies with CWD can also become a source for new infections.

Why is testing for CWD important?

  • Testing deer for CWD is important to you as well as the state agencies managing the disease. Follow all agency rules for mandatory testing. Consider having your deer tested, even if it is not mandatory in your hunting zone. Consider not eating your deer meat until CWD test results are determined to be “not detected.”

Where has CWD been discovered so far?

  • As of Jan 2024, CWD in wild and farmed cervids has been reported in 32 states in the United States, as well as in Canada, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and South Korea. CWD prevalence is variable from one state/province to another and within local populations of cervids in each state/province.  For an up-to-date record of where CWD has been found in North America, visit the USGS National Wildlife Health Center website at www.usgs.gov.

CWD has been found where I hunt or live, what do I do now?

  • Contact your state wildlife and agricultural agencies to get the most up-to-date recommendations and regulations. You can test the meat in your freezer with Priogen’s PrioSense muscle kits.

Where can I learn more about CWD?

  • Utilize your state agency websites for the most up-to-date information on CWD in your area. Additional CWD information can be found at: MNPROCWD InfoCDCMSU Deer Lab

Priogen Testing Technology

Does Priogen use RT-QuIC?

  • Yes. Priogen Corp testing services are based on the RT-QuIC assay and proprietary derivatives of the technology.

What is RT-QuIC?

  • Real-time quaking-induced conversion (RT-QuIC) is a test that is used to diagnose various neurodegenerative diseases in humans and animals, including prion diseases such as chronic wasting disease. A key feature of prion diseases is the abnormal twisting of prion proteins. These misfolded shapes eventually begin to form plaques, killing brain and other nerve cells. The RT-QuIC test works by combining suspect samples with a synthetic, healthy version of the prion protein. The mixture undergoes cycles of shaking (quaking) and heat. If misfolded prions are present in the tissue sample, this causes the normal prions to misfold and be detectable, essentially replicating the disease progression process in the body, only much faster and not infectious.

Does RT-QuIC produce false positive and false negative results?

  • RT-QuIC consistently produces low rates of false-positives and false-negatives. A growing number of independent scientific studies clearly show that RT-QuIC performs as good as, or better than, traditional CWD diagnostic assays (e.g., ELISA and IHC). RT-QuIC is a robust, repeatable, and sensitive method for detecting misfolded prions within a variety of biological samples. 

How sensitive is RT-QuIC?

  • RT-QuIC demonstrates greater sensitivity than current regulatory tests and can detect CWD in cervids months before traditional tests can. 

Venison Test

Are CWD prions found in muscle/venison?

  • Yes! Research and testing has shown that the CWD prions are found throughout much of the animal's body as the disease progresses, including the muscle.

What species can be tested?

  • Muscle from all cervids can be tested - white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, moose, caribou, red deer.

What muscle can I test?

  • Best results have come from neck muscle, but any muscle is suitable for the test with very similar accuracy.

Can my muscle sample be processed?

  • Yes. It is ideal for muscle samples to be fresh/frozen. However, muscle samples that have been processed by methods such as grinding, smoking, brining, or cooking can still be tested. Frozen samples can be thawed to process for testing.

Is the venison test a food safety test?

  • No. Priogen Corp. testing services are not intended for food safety. Public health officials at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommend not consuming meat from animals known to be infected with CWD.

What if my muscle sample is rotten?

  • No problem! Rotten muscle samples, although not ideal, can still be tested.

What is the accuracy?

  • Priogen’s venison test is 80+% accurate.

What is the expiration date of my PrioSense sample kit?

  • Due to the reagents used, PrioSense sample kits have a 6 month expiration from time of purchase.

Herd Surveillance, PrioScout, Environmental Swabbing

Why were my sentinels negative one time and positive the next time?

  • Has the population of animals or materials interacting with the sentinel changed?  If so, that may be the cause. This may be due to changes such as 1) added animals, 2) removed animals, 3) cycles that increase or decrease feeding, or 4) new feed or minerals. If not, there is variable prion content across animals and surfaces throughout time, and disease progression and shedding in individual animals fluctuates throughout the disease and during certain times such as giving birth.

What is shedding?

  • Infected animals can pass the disease to other deer; this is called shedding. Relatively soon after becoming sick, an animal will start shedding infectious prions into the environment through their bodily fluids, excreta, and antler velvet. These prions may spread to other animals through interactions such as sharing food sources, grooming, fighting, and breeding.

What happens if my feed interferes with feeder-based sentinels?

  • Either a different feed can be used or we can work through other sentinel location options.

What’s the benefit of Priogen’s environmental swabbing and PrioScout technologies?

  • Whole pen or batch testing; you can then focus in on pens or batches for further testing
  • Earlier detection than traditional testing methods
  • Endlessly repeatable
  • Non-invasive, no risk of animal death
  • No vet and associated costs needed
  • Not reportable to regulatory agencies

Test Results

How long before I get my test results?

  • Standard test result turnaround time is two weeks from Priogen’s receipt of the sample.  Expedited testing is an option with additional cost and turnaround time of one week from Priogen’s receipt of the sample.

What do my results mean?

  • All results are reported as positive/detected or not detected. Positive/detected results indicate that the samples provided have significant seeding activity which is consistent with a sample containing a misfolded protein. Not detected results indicate that there is not enough or no misfolded protein in the sample to show significant seeding activity. Priogen does not provide recommended actions in response to the results.

Why are my results reported as “not detected”?

  • All results are reported as positive or not detected. Positive results indicate that the samples provided have significant seeding activity which is consistent with a sample containing a misfolded protein. Not detected results indicate that there is not enough or no misfolded protein in the sample to show significant seeding activity.

Why are my Priogen results different from my regulatory test results?

  • Priogen results may not align with other detection assay (e.g., ELISA, IHC) results from the same animal or herd due to variable prion content across tissues/animals, assay performance differences, and disease progression in individual animals. 

Are my Priogen results reportable to regulatory agencies?

  • Priogen will comply with state, provincial, tribal and federal regulations. Please follow all state and federal regulations for mandatory testing. Results from tissues or a combination of samples directly from animals indicating a CWD-positive or suspect animal will be reported to the appropriate regulatory bodies. Environmental sample results will not be reported.

What do my Tricision live animal test results mean?

  • Per Priogen's testing criteria: CWD-positive = animals with a positive tissue sample. CWD-suspect = animals with 2 or more positive non-tissue samples.