DALLAS (August 27, 2015) – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department-mandated killing and post-mortem study of deer potentially exposed to Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) illustrates an urgent need for the use of live testing for white-tailed deer, elk and other cervids.
Currently, post-mortem testing of brain tissue is the only form of CWD testing approved by the USDA even though an effective, non-lethal alternative test exists.
A results of a study of rectal mucosa testing for CWD in white-tailed deer published by the USDA’s National Veterinary Research Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, shows extremely high diagnostic accuracy, one which could eliminate the need to destroy herds simply suspected to have been exposed to the disease.
“The overall diagnostic specificity was 99.8 percent. Selective use of ante-mortem rectal biopsy sample testing would provide valuable information during disease investigations of CWD-suspect deer herds,” states the report “Diagnostic Accuracy of Rectal Mucosa Biopsy Testing for Chronic Wasting Disease within White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) Herds in North America: Effects of Age, Sex, Polymorphism at PRNP Codon 96, and Disease Progression.”
White-tailed deer in breeding facilities across Texas have been killed following the confirmation of CWD in a Medina Co. breeding facility earlier this summer. Those deer having had contact with deer from the Medina Co. herd were killed and the heads of the deer sent to laboratories for post-mortem testing along with other deer that did not come into direct contact with the facility. Forty-two deer at the Medina Co. facility were also killed and sent for testing.
“Private hunting operations and land-leasing programs, including those utilizing deer from licensed and scientifically managed breeding herds, contribute vast resources to habitat restoration and development in Texas. These resources benefit game and non-game species alike,” said DSC Executive Director Ben Carter. “We support the rights of Texas landowners to continue to manage their properties in such a way that continues to enhance habitat quality and boost the populations of game and non-game species. We encourage landowners to continue to be fine stewards of their land and to continue working alongside the TPWD and the Texas Animal Health Commission to ensure all measures are taken to prevent this from happening again.
“Our sympathy goes out to the owners of the breeding facilities whose deer were destroyed. The euthanizing of these animals was unpleasant and DSC supports testing as a means to protect the state’s deer population. At the same time, we hope the destruction and post-mortem testing of these animals will hasten the adoption of a live test for CWD.”