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Laboratory of Holly Ernest



Elk in mountains with Elk population genomics and Chronic Wasting Disease text

Investigating Elk Chronic Wasting Disease Genetic Susceptibility

Lab researchers: Holly Ernest, Jenn Malmberg , Laura Johnson , and DJ Sandidge

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal prion disease that afflicts elk and other cervid species. Currently, there is no known prevention (e.g., immune response, vaccine) or treatment for CWD; however, some cervid species have polymorphisms in the prion protein gene (PRNP) that result in slower disease progression. Individuals with the “slow” PRNP genotype live longer and therefore have more opportunities to reproduce than individuals with the “fast” PRNP genotype. In collaboration with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department CWD Surveillance program, University of Wyoming researchers, and many others, we are studying the interrelationships among elk genetic population connectivity, PRNP genotypes, and the spread of CWD across the landscape. We are using genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data to identify genetic population units and characterize genetic connectivity in relation to natural and human-constructed landscape features.