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Old Apr 4th 2009, 07:10 AM   #1
 Russell's Avatar
Site Founder
  Mar 2009
  Edmonton, Alberta CANADA

Cervid: Western Canadian white-tailed deer
By Hanneke Brooymans, The Edmonton Journal April 4, 2009

New research shows that protein associated with chronic wasting disease can be found in antler velvet, a substance used to make nutritional supplements.

The discovery is prompting one organization to demand an emergency recall of the products, but the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says there is no reason to worry.

Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is a fatal disease that spreads among species in the deer family. Like mad cow disease, the killer involved is a prion. It is a tiny infectious agent that, unlike a virus or bacterium, is made up entirely of protein and contains no nucleic acid.

The discovery of prions in antler velvet of CWD-affected elk suggests that this tissue may play a role in disease transmission among members of the deer family, including elk, said the study, which will be published in the May issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal.

"Humans who consume antler velvet as a nutritional supplement are at risk for exposure to prions," the study said.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency collaborated on the study with scientists from the University of Kentucky Medical Center, Colorado State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The results of the study are not surprising, given that the prions have been found in blood and nerve tissue and antler velvet is rich in nerves and blood, said Dr. Cornelius Kiley, senior staff veterinarian with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

But Kiley said people who consume nutritional supplements made from antler velvet don't need to worry.

"Based upon the scientific evidence at this time, they should not be concerned." There is no scientific evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans, he added.

In Alberta and Saskatchewan, all elk over 12 months of age that go to slaughter must be tested for CWD, he explained. Currently, there are no tests for live animals and velvet comes from live animals.

These farms have a number of years of history of not having problems with chronic wasting disease. Farmers are also aware of the clinical signs of the disease in elk, such as depression, difficulty swallowing, lack of co-ordination, and paralysis, Kiley said.

"It's only out of an abundance of caution because of the international experience, primarily U.K., with BSE that these particular measures are in place." But Darrel Rowledge, director of the Calgary-based Alliance for Public Wildlife, is convinced these measures aren't enough.

Rowledge, who has followed the CWD issue for 20 years, said his organization is drafting a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking him to start an emergency recall of all velvet products, both for humans and animals.

Rowledge said it's irresponsible to say there's no evidence that CWD can infect humans. "An absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. So we can't prove that it has happened, but that doesn't indicate that it can't happen." Rowledge said that the prions would not be destroyed in the process used to create the nutritional supplements. One study showed that prions could survive being cooked at 600 C.

Kiley said there are two ongoing studies seeking to get closer to that question of whether or not people can be infected by CWD. The tests are being done on primates. It will take three to five years before the results are known because the disease has a long incubation period, he said.

"There is no evidence, but it's only by doing the research and doing it extensively where you can start to speak in absolute terms. And the world's not there yet with CWD." In the meantime, governments should be using the precautionary principle, Rowledge said.

"The bottom line question is not just what if this jumps to people. The nightmare question is what if this jumps to people and it behaves in us like it does in deer where it's highly contagious. Mad cow, yeah, people started dying from it, but it was never contagious, even amongst cattle. The only way you could give cattle, herbivores, the disease was to not just turn them into carnivores and feed them meat, you had to turn them into cannibals and feed them into cannibals." The local game farm industry is not concerned about the study.

"First of all, you need to understand that we take very seriously the care of our animals and our consumers," said Glenda Elkow, chairwoman of the Alberta Elk Commission. "Because of that commitment, we have a number of different, what I like to call, firewalls in place, like surveillance and testing. We have annual veterinarian inspections of our herds. We also have inspections from Alberta Agriculture." There has only been one positive case of CWD in a farmed elk in Alberta, she added.

The alternative health industry is also standing firm.

The capsules at the Optimum Health Centre in Edmonton are produced in Alberta and are used mostly by men to boost testosterone levels, said Elaine Doucette, the store's manager.

They've been sold for decades with positive results and no negative feedback, she said.

"We're not at this point going to pull it off the shelf because we haven't seen a reason to do that." If Health Canada decides to ban it, though, the store would comply, she added.
Russell is offline  
Old Apr 7th 2009, 03:56 PM   #2
  Apr 2009
  Del Norte, CO
I have read the entire article and while not delighted with the negative appearing results, I am not bothered by it.

First, it took special trans-genetic mice, fed multi-concentrated suspect CWD velvet tissue to produce several mice that showed signs of CWD after many months. And 2)

One could have surmised that CWD infectivity was present in velvet since it has nerve tissue in it. the CWD agent lives and reproduces in nerve tissue ..... so the results are not a surprise. ANY part of the animal that has nerve tissue or lymph tissue could harbor the CWD agent. If you play with the CWD agent long enough, you can make it grow.

The government in this case has acted appropriately.
Antler333 is offline  
Old Apr 7th 2009, 04:44 PM   #3
  Mar 2009
  Blairstown, LA
Then if you test the velvet for the prion, then wouldn't that be a good live-test for CWD in male deer and elk?
Scott Heinrich is offline  
Old Apr 7th 2009, 05:05 PM   #4
  Apr 2009
  Bristow OK. (Gypsy)
Thats what I was thinking, but then what? Say you get a positive, would they kill all of your does and test the bucks? I am pretty dumb to how all of that works.
Andy Horton is offline  
Old Apr 7th 2009, 08:33 PM   #5
  Apr 2009
  Del Norte, CO
No ya cant really test for bad prion (nor the CWD causal agent) in velvet, too low a concentration even at the end stages. Current tests are not good enough. When they did the research quoted in the article above, they never did know if infectivity was going to be revealed. Unfortunately some was.
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