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A Fatal Disease Is Spreading Among U.S. Deer, but There May Be a New Way to Detect It

Researchers claim it could aid Parkinson’s research, too.

Human beings are generally okay with buck heads. We hang them on our walls, set bouquets on them and stick them in bowties. But when it comes to testing these cervids for signs of fatal disease, some people would rather avoid decapitation entirely.

So Claudio Soto, a neurology researcher at McGovern Medical School, created a blood test for chronic wasting disease (CWD), an untreatable deer ailment similar to mad cow that is spreading across the U.S. In the last month, the disease reached new counties in Michigan and Montana.

The two existing USDA-approved CWD tests require brain and lymph node tissue, which is impossible to retrieve from a live deer. And testing for CWD before consumption is crucial. The disease has not yet been documented in humans, but the CDC advises against eating meat from infected animals. In July, Stefanie Czub, a scientists with the Canadian food inspection agency, presented evidence that macaque monkeys suffered from CWD after eating infected deer and elk.