Media Tip Sheet: Colorado State University Tse Experts Available for Comment

Note to Editors: In response to the Food and Drug Administration’s s two-day advisory committee meeting this week focusing on transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) diseases, as well as enhanced national interest in chronic wasting disease (CWD), the following media tip sheet provides information about TSE disease experts and research at Colorado State University. This information is provided as a resource to reporters and editors and is not intended as contact information for the public. To arrange interviews, contact Brad Bohlander at (970) 491-1545 or Dell Rae Moellenberg at (970) 491-6009.

Colorado State University has wide-ranging campus research expertise on:

– bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE;

– chronic wasting disease, or CWD; and

– other transmissible spongiform encephalopathy diseases, or TSEs, in animals.

Experts at Colorado State University are available for media interviews in the following related areas.

Understanding TSEs – Comparing CWD, BSE and scrapie:

Colorado State University veterinary and diagnostic experts are available to discuss and compare TSE diseases, a group of neurodegenerative disorders that includes CWD in deer and elk, BSE in cows, scrapie in sheep and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and kuru in human beings. The TSEs are characterized by accumulation in the central nervous system of an abnormal form of the naturally occurring prion protein. Colorado is unique in having two TSEs in its animal populations: CWD and scrapie. As a result of experience with these diseases, researchers and diagnosticians at Colorado State are recognized nationally and internationally in the fields of TSE research and diagnosis.

Research to understand and reduce the spread of TSE diseases:

Researchers at Colorado State’s Animal Population Health Institute can discuss current research underway to understand and reduce the spread of TSE diseases in animals, including CWD and BSE. The institute’s Program for Research on TSEs centralizes worldwide research on TSEs and integrates them with diagnostic activities currently ongoing at Colorado State.

Safe disposal of TSE-diseased animals:

Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System personnel can discuss the different methods of efficiently and safely disposing of animal tissue infected with CWD, BSE and other TSE diseases. The laboratory, in collaboration with the USDA and the Colorado Department of Agriculture, installed an alkaline hydrolysis tissue digester for inactivating highly infectious materials from potential TSE-positive animals. This instrument is one of only a few actively in use in the United States for disposal of potential TSE-infected material.

The Colorado State digester essentially works like a huge pressure cooker that precisely mixes water and chemicals and cooks the animal tissue for six hours at 65 psi and 300 degrees F. The automated process destroys all forms of TSE diseases. All that remain at the end of a cycle are sterile, brittle bones and a "soup" of broken-down amino acids and fats.

Testing procedures that enhance control efforts for TSEs:

Researchers at the Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System are available to discuss procedures for diagnosing CWD and related TSE diseases. Experts are available to address the new rapid test system approved for use in the United States – the same test being examined for use with BSE testing – and how the procedure is being used to detect CWD in hours instead of days.

The Colorado State University Diagnostic Laboratory System is part of USDA’s two laboratory networks:

– the TSE contract laboratory network of 26 USDA inspected laboratories certified for confirmation of the diagnosis of chronic wasting disease and scrapie; and

– the National Animal Health Network of 12 laboratories accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians as a full service laboratory for all species of animals and designated to test for foreign animal diseases.

CWD transmission and vaccine research:

Experts at Colorado State University’s Prion Research Laboratory can discuss their recently awarded National Institutes of Health seven-year, $8.4 million grant to study CWD. The laboratory’s research is focusing on four major objectives:

– assessing how CWD is transmitted among deer;

– developing a transgenic mouse model for CWD;

– evaluating the potential for inter-species transmission of CWD; and

– testing potential strategies for a CWD vaccine.

CWD research at the Prion Research Laboratory, still in its early stages, will yield findings important to understanding how prion infections are transmitted, the risk they present to animals and humans and how these fatal diseases can be prevented.

Genetically engineering elk resistance to CWD:

Experts at Colorado State University can discuss an elk-breeding research project underway that is studying elk containing a gene for resistance to CWD. The research project will focus on breeding elk in natural, free-ranging but controlled conditions to enhance presence of a gene identified to make elk resistant to the disease. The joint research project, with partner Cervid Research and Recovery Institute, a non-profit entity created to conduct elk genetic research, will work to increase the number of elk with a CWD-resistant gene.

Developing live CWD tests and vaccinations:

Experts can discuss Animal Population Health Institute research including scientists from the United States and Switzerland that is developing methods to detect very low levels of CWD in body fluids accessible from live animals, improving procedures to test tissues of deer that may be a potential risk associated with human consumption, and using new vaccine technology to develop and test vaccines to prevent CWD infection. This research could result in diagnostic tests and prevention methods for other prion infections.

CWD surveillance system development:

Colorado State University researchers are available to discuss a study done with scientists from the Colorado Department of Wildlife, the Colorado Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to design and implement a surveillance system for CWD in free-ranging cervids in Colorado. The system could be a model for other states with similar wildlife disease issues.