Infectious prions in the pregnancy microenvironment of chronic wasting disease-infected Reeves' muntjac deer

Amy V. Nalls, Erin McNulty, Clare E. Hoover, Laura A. Pulscher, Edward A. Hoover, Candace K. Mathiason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Ample evidence exists for the presence of infectious agents at the maternal-fetal interface, often with grave outcomes to the developing fetus (i.e., Zika virus, brucella, cytomegalovirus, and toxoplasma). While less studied, pregnancyrelated transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) have been implicated in several species, including humans. Our previous work has shown that prions can be transferred from mother to offspring, resulting in the development of clinical TSE disease in offspring born to muntjac dams infected with chronic wasting disease (CWD) (1). We further demonstrated protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA)- competent prions within the female reproductive tract and in fetal tissues harvested from CWD experimentally and naturally exposed cervids (1, 2). To assess whether the PMCA-competent prions residing at the maternal-fetal interface were infectious and to determine if the real-time quaking-induced conversion (RT-QuIC) methodology may enhance our ability to detect amyloid fibrils within the pregnancy microenvironment, we employed a mouse bioassay and RT-QuIC. In this study, we have demonstrated RT-QuIC seeding activity in uterus, placentome, ovary, and amniotic fluid but not in allantoic fluids harvested from CWD-infected Reeves' muntjac dams showing clinical signs of infection (clinically CWD-infected) and in some placentomes from pre-clinically CWD-infected dams. Prion infectivity was confirmed within the uterus, amniotic fluid, and the placentome, the semipermeable interface that sustains the developing fetus, of CWD-infected dams. This is the first report of prion infectivity within the cervid pregnancy microenvironment, revealing a source of fetal CWD exposure prior to the birthing process, maternal grooming, or encounters with contaminated environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00501-17
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • CWD
  • Maternal
  • Pregnancy
  • Prions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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