Is A Miracle Cure for CWD on the Horizon?

Is A Miracle Cure for CWD on the Horizon?

Recently, the Internet has been buzzing with questions about the seriousness of chronic wasting disease (CWD). For long-time readers, you know I’m a data guy, and the data are quite clear on just how serious this disease is.

A 2018 Wisconsin study showed that CWD-positive deer had an annual mortality rate of 69 percent, while those that were CWD-negative had an annual mortality rate of 35 percent. This begs the question, why are people not finding dead deer lying around in the woods? The mortality study I’ve just cited used GPS radio collars, so that when a deer died, the signal stopped moving and the researchers went in and determined the cause of mortality. Some were shot in hunting seasons, some starved, some got pneumonia, some were killed by predators, and some were hit by cars. No matter what the cause, deer with CWD died at almost twice the rate as deer without CWD.

One other study was done in Wyoming. I mentioned it in my March 2017 column, and it showed 68-percent annual deaths for CWD deer and only 24 percent for deer without CWD. Will real data appease the Facebook “experts” who think the states are overreacting to CWD? Probably not, but data don’t lie.

In recent months, those same experts (and many others) have become very excited because Dr. Frank Bastian, an LSU professor of neurosurgery and pathology researcher, says he has a cure for CWD. He believes that a Spiroplasm bacterium rather than a prion causes CWD. Dr. Bastian has published at least 15 scientific papers on transmissible spongiform diseases (i.e. the “prion” diseases like scrapie in sheep and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans), so he is not a novice in this area.


Reports state that Dr. Bastian will have a vaccine for CWD on deer farms within two years. In an interview in North American Whitetail magazine, Dr. James Kroll pointed out that this is impossible because before a vaccine is registered, there must be data on its safety and effectiveness. That plus other licensing protocols will take years. If all that is successful, and almost all researchers don’t believe it will be, then you could vaccinate deer on game farms and stop the spread of CWD there. But what about in the wild? Even if this Spiroplasm bacterium causes CWD, and even if a vaccine were developed, how would one vaccinate large numbers of wild deer? Probably not possible.


Scrapie first appeared in the United Kingdom in 1947. Since that time, hundreds of researchers have studied scrapie, yet thousands of flocks of sheep have contracted the disease. No cure yet. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) was first described in 1920. Millions of dollars have been spent searching for a cure. Here we are many years later, hundreds of humans have died, and there is still no cure.


There is some ongoing bacterium research, but little compared to the amount spent on prions as the cause of these diseases. Dr. Bastian attributes that to history, where everyone believes prions are the problem and won’t even look at the Spiroplasm theory. He notes that he can cultivate the Spiroplasma taken from a prion-diseased animal and infect a healthy animal, and that animal then gets sick. Is that proof? Maybe, but maybe not.

Many researchers note that bacteria trigger an immune response when it enters the body. Inflammation and fever result, and antibodies are produced to fight the bacteria. That isn’t happening with CWD-positive deer. Wonder why?

In separate experiments, sheep with scrapie and deer with CWD that lived in fenced pastures, were then removed and the habitat “cleaned” with various chemicals, fire, etc. Those decontaminating agents and processes kill bacteria. But when such pastures were subsequently left fallow for several years and healthy sheep and/or deer were then put in there, the sheep all got scrapie and the deer all got CWD. That leaves one to believe that prions are the cause, and not bacteria.


There are other tests that link scrapie, CJD, and CWD to prions and not bacteria, but who knows? Maybe we’ll have a miracle cure. I don’t totally discount Dr. Bastian, and sure hope he is right. If so, in a short two years we should have some answers. Miracles happen, but don’t expect one here.

Recommended for You

Dr. Dave Samuel breaks down the facts. Conservation

Is A Miracle Cure for CWD on the Horizon?

Dr. Dave Samuel

Dr. Dave Samuel breaks down the facts.

Check out our list of the best new-for-2019 optics from the ATA Show! ATA Show

Best New Binoculars for Bowhunters in 2019

Brian Strickland - January 11, 2019

Check out our list of the best new-for-2019 optics from the ATA Show!

From fixed to hybrid to mechanical, we've rounded up the best new broadheads from the 2019 ATA Show. ATA Show

Best New Broadheads for 2019

Brian Strickland - January 10, 2019

From fixed to hybrid to mechanical, we've rounded up the best new broadheads from the 2019 ATA...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Kansas Turkey Bowhunt

Kansas Turkey Bowhunt

Bowhunter contributor Matt Palmquist sets up shop for a turkey hunt in Kansas.

 2018 Bowhunter TV Episode 7: Canyon Ranch Roundup, Part 1

2018 Bowhunter TV Episode 7: Canyon Ranch Roundup, Part 1

Bowhunter TV's Derek Mleynek and Equipment Editor Tony J. Peterson head to Texas for a late-season mixed bag hunt that promises plenty of action.

Early Season Kentucky Whitetail Bowhunt

Early Season Kentucky Whitetail Bowhunt

Christian Berg begins the scouting process in Kentucky on his first whitetail hunt of the season.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

This past fall my twin daughters started kindergarten, which meant that I stopped paying for Bows

9 Top Budget Bows for 2018

Tony J. Peterson - February 20, 2018

This past fall my twin daughters started kindergarten, which meant that I stopped paying for

Black bear meat is dark and rich, and delicious ground up in this Pâté chaud recipe. Recipes

Vietnamese Black Bear Pâté Chaud (Meat Pie) Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Black bear meat is dark and rich, and delicious ground up in this Pâté chaud recipe.

Follow this advice before embarking on your first hunt! Big Game

Beginner's Guide to Bowhunting Mule Deer

Ron Niziolek

Follow this advice before embarking on your first hunt!

See More Stories

More Conservation

Learn why Dr. Dave Samuels says hunters bear some blame for the CWD issue and what we can do to preserve whitetails. Conservation

Are Hunters To Blame for CWD?

Dr. Dave Samuel - October 31, 2018

Learn why Dr. Dave Samuels says hunters bear some blame for the CWD issue and what we can do...

              By Dr. Dave Samuel    For years, woodland caribou hunting in Newfoundland has been an Conservation

Caribou Numbers Plummet In Newfoundland

Dr. Dave Samuel - November 04, 2010

By Dr. Dave Samuel For years, woodland caribou hunting in Newfoundland has...



For years, one of the arguments the antis used in their tirades against hunting was the idea that Conservation

Trophy Talk: Does Hunting Hurt Horn & Antler Growth?

Dr. Dave Samuel - July 02, 2013

For years, one of the arguments the antis used in their tirades against hunting was the idea...

See More Conservation

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.