Science/Tech

‘Zombie Deer Disease’ Update: Scientists Found That Humic Acid Can Eliminate CWD

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in deer, dubbed as “Zombie Dear Disease,” is still spreading across the United States. In a recent report, it was said that the disease also affects elk and white tail deer.

People called it “Zombie Deer Disease” because here the animals start to waste away through the last few months of their life, according to WVNSTV. The disease is similar to a mad cow disease, and it was first identified in 1960, which was described as a fatal, progressive, neurodegenerative illness. Once the disease infects the animals, the prions eat away the animals' brain, thus leading to symptoms that resemble dementia and eventually causing death. The visible changes in animals include drastic weight loss (wasting), stumbling, lack of coordination, listlessness, drooling, excessive thirst or urination, drooping ears and lack of fear. 

The CWD continues to spread, and it is getting closer to Georgia. According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 251 counties in 24 states in the U.S. had reported CWD in free-ranging deer as of January 2019. The states include Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. 

As of now, there are still no reports of CWD in people. However, CWD poses a risk to some types of non-human primates like monkeys. 

Division of Natural Resources District Wildlife Biologist Todd Dowdy warns the public, especially hunters, to be aware of regulations in any area they are going to hunt. He also said that the alias of this disease does not match with the symptoms of the infected deer.

“In the symptoms, you're going to see deer that are extremely emaciated, very poor looking, act lethargic, disoriented, almost similar to dementia,” Dowdy explained. 

Meanwhile, scientists from the University of Alberta found that naturally occurring soil compounds can reduce chronic wasting disease in the environment. Infected animals can contaminate the soil through urine, feces and saliva. Decaying carcasses (which died due to CWD) will also infect the soil. So when healthy animals come to the soil, which has been infected, the infection will be passed on.     

While studying the soil, researchers discovered that humic acid, created by decaying plant material, can help eliminate CWD.

“Previous studies have shown that certain soil minerals can enhance infectivity, leaving the environment infectious for longer,” Judd Aiken, senior author of the study. “These findings identify a different, organic component of soil with the opposite effect, reducing infectivity.” 

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