University of Wisconsin–Madison

Contrasting Two Wasting Diseases

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is in the news as experts raise concerns about its unchecked spread. Read here the Opinion/Hypothesis article in the July/August issue of mBio titled: Chronic Wasting Disease in Cervids: Implications for Prion Transmission to Humans and Other Animal Species. The authors of the article conclude: Available data indicate that the incidence of CWD in cervids is increasing and that the potential exists for transmission to humans and subsequent human disease. Given the long incubation period of prion-associated conditions, improving public health measures now to prevent human exposure to CWD prions and to further understand the potential risk to humans may reduce the likelihood of a BSE-like event in the years to come.

Today’s news item contrasts CWD with a more common chronic wasting disease known as Johne’s disease (JD). I do this with the intention of questioning the relative importance of CWD and JD to society and urging science-based decisions on animal disease control investments. The evidence in the table below and the references that follow speak for themselves.


  • 1 Crohn’s disease affects more than 1 in 800 people in North America, and while the incidence has plateaued in more industrialized countries, since 1990 the incidence has been rising in newly industrialized countries in Africa, Asia, and South America, including Brazil.
  • 2 Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus affects roughly 1 in 550 youth (<20 years old) in the U.S. and Canada, and the incidence is rising.
  • 3 Multiple Sclerosis affects roughly 1 in 700 in the U.S., and the incidence is rising.

References and recommended reading: