As chronic wasting disease (CWD) continues to spread across North America, the relationship between CWD and host genetics has become of interest. In Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni), one or two copies of a leucine allele at codon 132 of the prion protein gene (132L*) has been shown to prolong the incubation period of CWD. Our study examined the relationship between CWD epidemiology and codon 132 evolution in elk from Wyoming, USA, from 2011 to 2018. Using PCR and Sanger sequencing, we genotyped 997 elk and assessed the relationship between genotype and CWD prevalence estimated from surveillance data. Using logistic regression, we showed that each 1% increase in CWD prevalence is associated with a 9.6% increase in the odds that an elk would have at least one copy of leucine at codon 132. In some regions, however, 132L* variants were found in the absence of CWD, indicating that evolutionary and epidemiologic patterns can be heterogeneous across space and time. We also provide evidence that naturally occurring CWD is not rare in 132L* elk, which merits the study of shedding kinetics in 132L* elk and the influence of genotype on CWD strain diversity. The management implications of cervid adaptations to CWD are difficult to predict. Studies that investigate the degree to which evolutionary outcomes are shaped by host spatial structure can provide useful epidemiologic insight, which can in turn aid management by informing scale and extent of mitigation actions.

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