Dehydration of Prions on Environmentally Relevant Surfaces Protects Them from Inactivation by Freezing and Thawing
Journal of Virology
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is an emerging prion disease in North America. Recent identification of CWD in wild cervids from Norway raises the concern of the spread of CWD in Europe. CWD infectivity can enter the environment through live animal excreta and carcasses where it can bind to soil. Well-characterized hamster prion strains and CWD field isolates in unadsorbed or soil-adsorbed forms that were either hydrated or dehydrated were subjected to repeated rounds of freezing and thawing. We
... ound that 500 cycles of repeated freezing and thawing of hydrated samples significantly decreased the abundance of PrP Sc and reduced protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA) seeding activity that could be rescued by binding to soil. Importantly, dehydration prior to freezing and thawing treatment largely protected PrP Sc from degradation, and the samples maintained PMCA seeding activity. We hypothesize that redistribution of water molecules during the freezing and thawing process alters the stability of PrP Sc aggregates. Overall, these results have significant implications for the assessment of prion persistence in the environment. IMPORTANCE Prions excreted into the environment by infected animals, such as elk and deer infected with chronic wasting disease, persist for years and thus facilitate horizontal transmission of the disease. Understanding the fate of prions in the environment is essential to control prion disease transmission. The significance of our study is that it provides information on the possibility of prion degradation and inactivation under natural weathering processes. This information is significant for remediation of prion-contaminated environments and development of prion disease control strategies.