Soil humic acids degrade CWD prions and reduce infectivity

by Alsu Kuznetsova, Catherine Cullingham, Debbie McKenzie, Judd M. Aiken

Chronic wasting disease (CWD), an environmentally transmissible, fatal prion disease is endemic in North America, present in South Korea and has recently been confirmed in northern Europe. The expanding geographic range of this contagious disease of free-ranging deer, moose, elk and reindeer has resulted in increasing levels of prion infectivity in the environment. Soils are involved in CWD horizontal transmission, acting as an environmental reservoir, and soil mineral and organic compounds have the ability to bind prions. Upper horizons of soils are usually enriched with soil organic matter (SOM), however, the role of SOM in prion conservation and mobility remains unclear. In this study, we show that incubation of PrPCWD with humic acids (HA), a major SOM compound, affects both the molecular weight and recovery of PrPCWD. Detection of PrPCWD is reduced as HA concentration increases. Native HA extracted from pristine soils also reduces or entirely eliminates PrPCWD signal. Incubation of CWD prions with HA significantly increased incubation periods in tgElk mice demonstrating that HA can reduce CWD infectivity.

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