Zombie deer can infect humans with a deadly infection

Formally known as "chronic debilitating disease" (Eng. CWD) since the 60s of the last century, it horrifies not only scientists, but also ordinary people. Deer and elk suffer from this terrible infection: microbes literally eat away the brains of noble animals, which leads to signs of severe dementia. Difficulty in walking, impaired coordination, inability to eat normally - all these symptoms gradually progress until the exhausted body finally dies. A new study made experts sound the alarm: doctors found that the disease can be transmitted to humans!

“Zombie disease” spreads through prions, pathogenic proteins that are not living organisms in their own right — they are simply fragments of organic matter. As soon as they enter a healthy body, they cause something akin to a chain reaction, causing the cells to stick together and form conglomerates. After some time, the brain “literally becomes like Swiss cheese, ” explains evolutionary biologist Peter Larsen.

In animals, infection occurs through direct or indirect contact with saliva, blood, urine and other biological fluids of the infected. Therefore, a person also will not have any difficulty getting infected. As of January 2019, the disease was recorded in 24 states of the United States, as well as in Canada, Norway, Finland and even South Korea. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 25 percent of animals are infected in some places.

To date, not a single case of human infection has been recorded, but this is just a fluke. According to a new study published in the journal Emerging Infecious Diseases, prions can affect the human body - this was confirmed by laboratory tests in a Petri dish, so doctors urge everyone to be extremely careful. Prion diseases of ungulates have already dealt a significant blow to humanity in the past: for example, spongiform encephalopathy in cattle (also known as “mad cow disease”) caused a real epidemic in the 90s, and people still die from it.

Experts are currently urging lawmakers to invest in developing more effective CWD tests that can detect infection in live animals, as well as in soil and water. Director of the Center for Research and Policy on Infectious Diseases Michael Osterholm said that "it will be very disappointing to find out after 10 years that we should have done something in 2019, but did not."


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