The first detection of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Europe

The Norwegian Veterinary Institute has diagnosed Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in a free-ranging reindeer from the Nordfjella population in South-Norway. CWD is a lethal disease in cervids. The disease is well known in North America; however this is the first detection of CWD in Europe. Also, this is the first detection of natural infection in reindeer worldwide. This news includes a video with expert interviews.


-The sick female reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus) was detected in the middle of March 2016 in connection with capture for GPS-collaring using helicopter performed by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA. It died and the carcass was submitted to the Norwegian Veterinary Institute in Oslo for necropsy and laboratory examinations. It was an adult animal, says wildlife pathologist Turid Vikøren at Norwegian Veterinary Institute, who performed the necropsy.

The body condition of the reindeer was below medium, but it had still some adipose tissue left. In cervids older than 18 months, we routinely collect sample of the brain for CWD examination as part of the national surveillance program for CWD, and that was also done in this reindeer, Vikøren continues.

The head of the Norwegian Reference Laboratory for animal prion diseases at Norwegian Veterinary Institute, Sylvie Benestad, states that the brain sample from the reindeer was positive for the detection of prions both by the first routine test (ELISA-test) and in two supplementary tests (Western Blotting, Immunohistochemistry).

The disease
Chronic Wasting Disease is a contagious neurological disease that attacks the brain of cervids. CWD belongs to a group of diseases known as Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs), in which the infectious agents are known to be the prion protein, a normal protein that misfolds and destroys the brain. The development of the disease is slow and affected cervids show loss of body condition and altered behaviour. Death is inevitable once clinical disease occurs.

CWD is an endemic disease in North America, in which natural infections occurs in mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), white-tailed deer (O. virginianus), elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) og moose (Alces alces shirasi).The reindeer from Norway represents the first detection of CWD in Europe. Also, this is the first detection of a natural infection in reindeer worldwide.

The Norwegian Veterinary Institute will take the initiative to follow-up surveys of this disease in the Norwegian wild reindeer populations.

Turid Vikøren (Wildlife Health)

Kjell Handeland (Wildlife Health)

Sylvie Benestad (Prions Diseases)

Jorun Jarp, Head of Dep. of Health Surveillance Mobile: 90056216. 

Asle Haukaas, Communication Director Mobile: 92080877.