Skip to Main Navigation. Each navigation link will open a list of sub navigation links.

Skip to Main Content

Apply to the University of Wyoming apply now

Global Resource Navigation

Visit Campus
Download UW Viewbook
Give to UW

Department of Veterinary Sciences

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Chronic Wasting Disease

CWD is an infectious and fatal disease in deer, elk and moose that causes neurological degeneration in parts of an infected animal's brain and a slow wasting away, ending in death.  It occurs among our wild herds in many areas of southeastern Wyoming and northern Colorado, and sparsely in other North American locations as well as among farmed deer and elk.  CWD can be "caught" by susceptible animals from contaminated sources in the environment as well as from contact with infected animals.  It is therefore probably not going to be easily eradicated from wildlife populations in which it is already well-established and endemic until we know more about exactly how, where and when it can be passed on and what precisely it does to cause disease and death in the infected animal.

Areas of research by UW researchers in collaboration with other scientists and wildlife managers include studies of genetic factors that may contribute to increased or decreased susceptibility of wild ruminants to CWD, the effects of CWD on white-tailed deer activity, landscape use patterns and on livestock interactions in a high-prevalence CWD area in central Wyoming, the development of sensitive assays for the CWD agent to monitor shedding and environmental contamination by infected mule deer, white-tailed deer and elk throughout the course of infection, an investigation of the presence of the CWD agent in various muscles of infected deer and elk, the pathogenesis of experimentally induced CWD over the course of disease development in mule deer, the susceptibility of cattle to oral infection with CWD, and the susceptibility of domestic sheep to CWD through experimental oral inoculation.

It is not an exaggeration to say that most of the scientific research on chronic wasting disease accomplished in the past 20 years was carried out by the late Dr. Elizabeth S. Williams at the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory of the University of Wyoming in collaboration with colleagues in the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, in the Colorado Division of Wildlife, and at Colorado State University.  Following Dr. Williams’ death in December 2004, her various collaborators have undertaken to continue her work and to keep building on that foundation with the aim of finding ways to control CWD.


  • Williams ES.  2005.  Chronic Wasting Disease.  Veterinary Pathology 42:530-549.

  • Belay ED, Maddox RA, Williams ES, Miller MW, Gambetti P, Schonberger LB: Chronic wasting disease and potential transmission to humans. Emerg Infect Dis 10:977–984, 2004

  • Browning SR, Mason GL, Seward T, Green M, Eliason GA, Mathiason C, Miller MW, Williams ES, Hoover E, Telling GC: Transmission of prions from mule deer and elk with chronic wasting disease to transgenic mice expressing cervid PrP. J Virol 78:13345–13350, 2004

  • Jewell JE, Conner MM, Wolfe LL, Miller MW, Williams ES: Low frequency of PrP genotype 225SF among free-ranging mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) with chronic wasting disease. J Gen Virol 86:2127–2134, 2005

  • Miller MW, Williams ES, Hobbs NT, Wolfe LL: Environmental sources of prion transmission in mule deer. Emerg Infect Dis 10:1003–1006, 2004

  • O’Rourke KI, Besser TE, Miller MW, Cline TF, Spraker TR, Jenny AL, Wild MA, Zebarth GL, Williams ES: PrP genotypes of captive and free-ranging Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) with chronic wasting disease. J Gen Virol 80:2765–2769, 1999

  • Race RE, Raines A, Baron TGM, Miller MW, Jenny A, Williams ES: Comparison of abnormal prion protein glycoform patterns from transmissible spongiform encephalopathy agent-infected deer, elk, sheep, and cattle. J Virol 76:12365–12368, 2002

  • Raymond GJ, Bossers A, Raymond LD, O’Rourke KI, McHolland LE, Bryant PK 3rd, Miller MW, Williams ES, Smits M, Caughey B: Evidence of a molecular barrier limiting susceptibility of humans, cattle and sheep to chronic wasting disease. EMBO J 19:4425–4430, 2000

  • Sigurdson CJ, Williams ES, Miller MW, Spraker TR, O’Rourke KI, Hoover EA: Oral transmission and early lymphoid tropism of chronic wasting disease PrPres in mule deer fawns (Odocoileus hemionus). J Gen Virol 80:2757–2764, 1999

  • Spraker TR, Miller MW, Williams ES, Getzy DM, Adrian WJ, Schoonveld GG, Spowart RA, O’Rourke KI, Miller JM, Merz PA: Spongiform encephalopathy in free-ranging mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), whitetailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), and Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) in northcentral Colorado. J Wildl Dis 33:1–6, 1997

  • Williams ES, Kirkwood JK, Miller MW: Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. In: Infectious Diseases of Wild Mammals, ed. Williams ES and Barker IK, 3rd ed., pp. 292–301. Iowa State University Press, Ames, IA, 2001

  • Williams ES, Miller MW: Chronic wasting disease in North American deer and elk. Rev Sci Tech 21:305–316, 2002

  • Williams ES, Miller MW, Kreeger TJ, Kahn RH, Thorne ET: Chronic wasting disease of deer and elk: a review with recommendations for management. J Wildl Manag 66:551–563, 2002

  • Wolfe LL, Conner MM, Baker TH, Dreitz VJ, Burnham KP, Williams ES, Hobbs NT, Miller MW: Evaluation of antemortem sampling to estimate chronic wasting disease prevalence in free-ranging mule deer. J Wildl Manag 66:564–573, 2002

  • Wolfe LL, Miller MW, Williams ES: Feasibility of ‘‘test and cull’’ as a strategy for managing chronic wasting disease in urban mule deer populations. Wildl Soc Bull 32:500–505, 2004

  • Miller MW, Williams ES: 2004, Chronic wasting disease of cervids.  Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 284:193-214

  • Miller MW, Williams ES: 2003, Prion disease: horizontal prion transmission in mule deer. Nature. 2003 Sep 4;425(6953):35-36.

  • O'Rourke KI, Zhuang D, Lyda A, Gomez G, Williams ES, Tuo W, Miller MW: 2003, Abundant PrP(CWD) in tonsil from mule deer with preclinical chronic wasting disease.  J Vet Diagn Invest. 2003 Jul;15(4):320-233.

  • Williams ES, Miller MW: 2003, Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in non-domestic animals: origin, transmission and risk factors. Rev Sci Tech. 2003 Apr;22(1):145-156.

  • Williams ES: 2003, Scrapie and chronic wasting disease.  Clin Lab Med. 2003 Mar;23(1):139-159

  • Miller MW, Williams ES: 2002, Detection of PrP(CWD) in mule deer by immunohistochemistry of lymphoid tissues.  Vet Rec. 2002 Nov 16;151(20):610-612.

  • Williams ES: 2002, The transmissible spongiform encephalopathies: disease risks for North America. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract. 2002 Nov;18(3):461-473.

  • Williams, E. S. and S. Young. 1980. Chronic wasting disease of captive mule deer: A spongiform encephalopathy.

Share This Page:

Contact Us

Dept. of Veterinary Sciences

University of Wyoming

1174 Snowy Range Road

Laramie, WY 82070

Phone: (307) 766-5059

Fax: (307) 721-2051


Find us on Facebook (Link opens a new window)

1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
UW Operators (307) 766-1121 | Contact Us | Download Adobe Reader

Twitter Icon Youtube Icon Instagram Icon Facebook Icon

Accreditation | Emergency Preparedness | Employment at UW | Gainful Employment | Privacy Policy | Accessibility Accessibility information icon