Enzymatic Digestion of Chronic Wasting Disease Prions Bound to Soil
Samuel E. Saunders,1 Jason C. Bartz,2 Kurt C. Vercauteren3 and Shannon L. Bartelt-Hunt1
1Department of Civil Engineering; University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Peter Kiewit Institute; Omaha, Nebraska USA; 2Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology; Creighton University; Omaha, Nebraska USA; 3USDA; Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; Wildlife Services; National Wildlife Research Center; Fort Collins, CO USA
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) and sheep scrapie can be transmitted via indirect environmental routes, and it is known that soil can serve as a reservoir of prion infectivity. Given the strong interaction between the prion protein (PrP) and soil, we hypothesized that binding to soil enhances prion resistance to enzymatic digestion, thereby facilitating prion longevity in the environment and providing protection from host degradation. We characterized the performance of a commercially available subtilisin enzyme, the Prionzyme, to degrade soil-bound and unbound CWD and HY TME PrP as a function of pH, temperature, and treatment time. The subtilisin enzyme effectively degraded PrP adsorbed to a wide range of soils and soil minerals below the limits of detection. Signal loss occurred rapidly at high pH (12.5) and within 7 d under conditions representative of the natural environment (pH 7.4, 22°C). Serial PMCA of treated soil samples suggests a greater than 6-log decrease in infectious titer compared with controls. We observed no apparent difference in enzyme effectiveness between bound and unbound CWD PrP. Our results show that although adsorbed prions do retain relative resistance to enzymatic digestion compared with other brain homogenate proteins, they can be effectively degraded when bound to soil. Our results also suggest a topical application of a subtilisin enzyme solution may be an effective decontamination method to limit disease transmission via environmental ‘hot spots’ of prion infectivity.
Detection of PrPCWD in Rocky Mountain Elk Feces Using Protein Misfolding Cyclic Amplification
Bruce E Pulford,1 Terry Spraker,1 Jenny Powers,2 Margaret Wild2 and Mark D. Zabel1
1Department of Microbiology; Immunology and Pathology; College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences; Colorado State University; 2Biological Resource Management Division; United States National Park Service; CO, USA
Key words: CWD, feces, PMCA, elk
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy affecting cervids, including mule and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus and virginianus), elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) and moose (Alces alces shirasi). The method of CWD transmission between hosts is unclear, though there is
evidence that feces excreted by infected animals may play a role. Recently, CWD prions was detected in feces using bioassays in cervidized mice, which took many months to produce results. In this study, we use a more rapid procedure, protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA), to test elk feces for the presence of PK-resistant cervid PrP (PrPCWD). Feces were collected from symptomatic and asymptomatic elk in several northern Colorado locations, homogenized, mixed with normal brain homogenate from Tg5037 mice (expressing cervid PrP) and subjected to up to 9 rounds of PMCA (1 round = 40 secs sonication/30 mins at 70% maximum power, 24 hours). Western blots were used to detect PrPCWD using BAR-224 anti-PrP antibody. Rectal and CNS tissue from the elk were IHC-labeled and examined for the presence of PrPCWD. Fecal samples from symptomatic and asymptomatic elk that tested positive by IHC showed characteristic PrPCWD bands on western blots following PMCA. In addition, PMCA detected PrPCWD in 25% of fecal samples from IHC-negative animals. These data suggest that PMCA may (1) prove useful as a non-invasive method to supplement or even replace IHC testing of cervids for CWD, and (2) identify additional asymptomatic carriers of CWD, the prevalence of which may be underestimated using IHC.