Table of Contents
ISRN Veterinary Science
Volume 2012, Article ID 254739, 24 pages
Review Article

Detection and Control of Prion Diseases in Food Animals

1Department of Biochemistry, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada S7N 5E3
2Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada S7N 5E3
3School of Public Health, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada S7N 5E3

Received 30 November 2011; Accepted 22 December 2011

Academic Editors: R. Harasawa and R. Thanawongnuwech

Copyright © 2012 Peter Hedlin et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), or prion diseases, represent a unique form of infectious disease based on misfolding of a self-protein (PrPC) into a pathological, infectious conformation (PrPSc). Prion diseases of food animals gained notoriety during the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) outbreak of the 1980s. In particular, disease transmission to humans, to the generation of a fatal, untreatable disease, elevated the perspective on livestock prion diseases from food production to food safety. While the immediate threat posed by BSE has been successfully addressed through surveillance and improved management practices, another prion disease is rapidly spreading. Chronic wasting disease (CWD), a prion disease of cervids, has been confirmed in wild and captive populations with devastating impact on the farmed cervid industries. Furthermore, the unabated spread of this disease through wild populations threatens a natural resource that is a source of considerable economic benefit and national pride. In a worst-case scenario, CWD may represent a zoonotic threat either through direct transmission via consumption of infected cervids or through a secondary food animal, such as cattle. This has energized efforts to understand prion diseases as well as to develop tools for disease detection, prevention, and management. Progress in each of these areas is discussed.