It was just over a year ago that we shared the story of Dr. Frank Bastian, from LSU’s Department of Agriculture, claiming to have found a cure for CWD. It was a bold claim that caught the attention of deer hunters across the country.
Why was this such a big deal?
For one, Bastian’s discovery and plan included a field kit that would allow hunters to immediately test their deer for CWD instead of having to wait the typical 2 weeks for a positive or negative CWD confirmation.
Think of it like a pregnancy test that immediately gives a positive or negative result. It would be a game changer for hunters and wildlife agencies.
Bastian had garnered the support of groups like the Unified Sportsmen of PA, a grassroots organization that promotes the conversation of Pennsylvania’s natural resources and wildlife. The group released a video last year stating a cure for CWD had been found through the research of Dr. Bastian.
As mentioned above, Bastian’s plan of attack begins with the diagnostic test kit that would allow hunters to immediately test their deer for the disease in the field. And the long-term goal is to develop a vaccine and cure for deer and elk in the wild.
“I’ve figured it out,” said Bastian in our conversation by phone. “I’ve solved it. It’s not about the prions. Prions are just a reaction product to the highly resistant bacterial infection, spiroplasma.
When asked about the progress made over the last year, Bastian was quick to point to funding as the culprit for the lack of ability to push forward.
“Private funds are not enough to support this work,” says Bastian. “It’s going to take bigger support at the national level and with the government. And unfortunately, money from groups like the National Institute of Health (N.I.H) continues to support the prion theory.”
According to Bastian, most government agencies, state wildlife programs, and conservation groups have sold out to the idea of prions being the basis for CWD.
I also spoke with John Eveland, spokesman featured in the video above, to follow up and get his thoughts on the progress over the last year.
“We’re more determined than ever,” says Eveland. “We could stop this thing (CWD) in short order if we had the backing of state and government agencies.”
Like Dr. Bastian, Eveland says the bulk of the funding and support is going to advocates of the prion theory.
“The prion-based CWD hypothesis came out in 1986 and nothing has transpired since then. They don’t have the answer. We have the answer. We just need the support to make it happen, and we need the ability to get CWD test samples to follow through on our plan.”
Unfortunately, both Bastian and Eveland report that CWD samples are very hard to come by. Testing by state agencies typically find positive samples going to research efforts revolving around prion-based studies. Essentially, there are no “left-overs” for research of a new theory.
Spiroplasma vs. Prion
Dan Grove, Wildlife Heath Specialist for the University of Tennessee Extension office, agrees that getting access to CWD samples is tough. I spoke with Grove to get some input from another source that’s not affiliated with Bastian’s work and the effort his team is putting forth.
Grove is a veterinarian that works as a Wildlife Health Specialist for the University of Tennessee, as well as, serves as the Wildlife Veterinarian for the TN Wildlife Resources Agency. He’s not a bio-chemist, but he’s knows a wealth of information when it comes to CWD and how it’s impacting deer across the country.
Grove disagrees with Bastian on his stance against the prion theory. “There’s a lot of strong evidence in favor of the prion theory and the replication process,” says Grove.
When asked about the legitimacy of Bastian’s spiroplasma theory, Grove made it clear that he’s not buying into Bastian’s beliefs on the subject.
“Bastian’s theory is based on the spiroplasma bacteria being the culprit for CWD,” says Grove. “The problem with that is, the prion disease is evident in far too many cases with the absence of spiroplasma.”
Grove tends to think Bastian’s lack of financial support stems from the length of time he’s been working on his theory (since the 70’s), with little support, or other major groups following his lead on the subject.
Why Is The Search For a CWD Cure Going So Slow?
“Unfortunately, cures are not researched aggressively unless a disease is human health-related, or it impacts our cattle industry,” says Grove. “And because the human version of CWD, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), is considered extremely rare, with less than 1,000 U.S. cases per year, it doesn’t get significant attention or research either.”
Grove is also doubtful that a vaccine will have the effect on CWD that Bastian is hoping for due to the animal’s potential ability to build immunity to a CWD vaccine.
As with all medical research, it takes money to reach your goals. Such is the case for Bastian and Eveland in their quest for a CWD cure.
They’ve got what they believe to be the cure for CWD, they just need the backing and financial support to make it happen.
What about you? Do you think these guys are headed in the right direction? Should state or federal government agencies be helping to fund their research?
Comment below and let us know what you think.
For more information on the CWD project visit, www.northamericancwdproject.org.