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Spreading CWD raises specter of universal infection

As chronic wasting disease spreads in deer herds and the prions that cause it get distributed throughout the ecosystem, nearly every deer will eventually be infected at birth, and the average life span will decline, writes Robert Zink, a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's School of Biological Sciences. In such a scenario, all venison will be contaminated, and though no evidence now suggests that humans are susceptible to CWD, clinical signs of another prion disease -- bovine spongiform encephalopathy -- can take decades to manifest in humans, and more research is needed, Zink writes.

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