Abstract

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is an infectious and fatal prion disease occurring in the family Cervidae. To update the research community regarding the status quo of CWD epidemic models, we conducted a meta-analysis on CWD research. We collected data from peer-reviewed articles published since 1980, when CWD was first diagnosed, until December 2018. We explored the analytical methods used historically to understand CWD. We used 14 standardized variables to assess overall analytical approaches of CWD research communities, data used, and the modeling methods used. We found that CWD modeling initiated in the early 2000s and has increased since then. Connectivity of the research community was heavily reliant on a cluster of CWD researchers. Studies focused primarily on regression and compartment-based models, population-level approaches, and host species of game management concern. Similarly, CWD research focused on single populations, species, and locations, neglecting modeling using community ecology and biogeographic approaches. Chronic wasting disease detection relied on classic diagnostic methods with limited sensitivity for most stages of infection. Overall, we found that past modeling efforts generated a solid baseline for understanding CWD in wildlife and increased our knowledge on infectious prion ecology. Future analytical efforts should consider more sensitive diagnostic methods to quantify uncertainty and broader scale studies to elucidate CWD transmission beyond population-level approaches. Considering that infectious prions may not follow biological rules of well-known wildlife pathogens (i.e., viruses, bacteria, fungi), assumptions used when modeling other infectious disease may not apply for CWD. Chronic wasting disease is a new challenge in wildlife epidemiology.

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