Hunting group rallies behind researcher with new theory on fatal deer disease

Pennsylvania

Since it first discovered in the 1960s, chronic wasting disease has been found in 24 states including Pennsylvania.

The disease affects deer and elk. It is always fatal and there is no cure.

But one scientist is working on one.

The Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania spoke Monday at the state Capitol in support of a researcher who says he has found the true cause of chronic wasting disease. The group announced a funding drive to help him complete his research.

The mainstream theory is that the disease is caused by a malformed protein called a prion.

Dr. Frank Dastian, of Louisiana State University’s Department of Agriculture, believes the disease is caused by a previously undiscovered species of bacteria called spiroplasma.

Bastian’s team is working on developing a diagnostic kit that would allow hunters to immediately test deer for the disease in the field. Their ultimate goal is to develop a vaccine.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission responded in a statement, saying “decades of research have provided abundant evidence that prions are the infectious agent of CWD. The commission said while alternative theories exist, they have not been thoroughly researched.

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