Development of a prion vaccine

Project Team: Scott Napper, Philip Griebel, Erin Scruten

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) threatens Canadian wild and farmed cervid (deer and elk) populations. It has had a devastating impact on the farmed elk industry in Canada, and the spread of the disease through wild populations threatens a national resource of considerable economic benefit and national pride. In a worst case scenario, CWD may have zoonotic potential, or have the potential to be transmitted to cattle or wild caribou populations. It is essential to control the spread of this disease, but current management strategies have proven ineffective.

Vaccination is an effective strategy for controlling infectious diseases in humans and animals. The development of a prion vaccine is challenging due to the unique nature of the infectious agent. There is optimism and proof-of-principle evidence that immunotherapy of prion disease is achievable. Research identified vaccine targets exposed during disease-associated misfolding. Using these targets, a first generation injectable vaccine was developed. Further research is focused on the development of an oral vaccine, which is anticipated to induce a greater immune response and be compatible for use as a wildlife vaccine.