Christensen Named to National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Committee
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Sonja Christensen, an assistant professor in the Michigan State University Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, has been named to a 12-person committee examining chronic wasting disease, or CWD, by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
CWD is a neurodegenerative disease caused by prions, a form of protein that attacks healthy nervous system cells, particularly in the brain. It is not known to affect humans but is 100% fatal in cervids, such as deer, elk and moose. Spread is thought to be a result of either direct or environmental contact with bodily fluids, but research is ongoing.
Symptom onset can take more than a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These include dramatic weight loss, disorientation, listlessness and other neurological issues.
The disease was first discovered in Colorado in 1967, and the CDC indicates that as of March 2023, it has been detected in at least 29 states and two Canadian provinces.
According to the Academies, the new committee will review current knowledge about transmission and spread of CWD, including:
- The infectious dose of CWD and different modes of disease transmission among cervids.
- The means of geographic spread through cervid dispersal, scavenger activity and human actions.
- The effectiveness of interventions to reduce transmission and/or geographic spread of the disease.
- The population-level and economic impacts of CWD and the effectiveness of different interventions to reduce those impacts.
The product of the committee’s efforts will be a report based on review of published and ongoing CWD research.