Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a contagious, fatal, neurodegenerative prion disease of cervids. The expanding geographical range and rising prevalence of CWD are increasing the risk of pathogen transfer and spillover of CWD to non-cervid sympatric species. As beavers have close contact with environmental and food sources of CWD infectivity, we hypothesized that they may be susceptible to CWD prions. We evaluated the susceptibility of beavers to prion diseases by challenging transgenic mice expressing beaver prion protein (tgBeaver) with five strains of CWD, four isolates of rodent-adapted prions and one strain of Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease. All CWD strains transmitted to the tgBeaver mice, with attack rates highest from moose CWD and the 116AG and H95+ strains of deer CWD. Mouse-, rat-, and especially hamster-adapted prions were also transmitted with complete attack rates and short incubation periods. We conclude that the beaver prion protein is an excellent substrate for sustaining prion replication and that beavers are at risk for CWD pathogen transfer and spillover.
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