Developing oral vaccine for chronic wasting disease goal of funding research
Prion disease poses significant risk to wildlife, but research into developing vaccine cause for optimism
For immediate release

Edmonton (January 24, 2022) – Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) is partnering with Alberta Environment and Parks and Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Environment to provide more than $1.2 million of funding with the aim of developing an oral vaccine for chronic wasting disease (CWD).

“CWD poses a significant risk to the future of wildlife resources across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and other jurisdictions,” said Todd Zimmerling, President and CEO of ACA. “With this funding commitment, Alberta Conservation Association, on behalf of the hunters and anglers of Alberta, has drawn together the top researchers in the field of CWD vaccine development. We are optimistic that this project can make significant strides towards providing a new management option for controlling CWD in wild cervid populations.”

ACA is providing $500,000 over five years; Alberta Environment and Parks is providing $381,000 over two years; and Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Environment is providing $400,000 over five years through their Fish and Wildlife Development Fund.

The money will go to researchers at four universities in Western Canada to examine five potential antigens and two different oral delivery methods with the potential to be distributed in affected habitat. The researchers include Dr. Hermann Schatzl at the University of Calgary, Dr. Neil Cashman with University of British Columbia, Dr. Holger Wille at the University of Alberta, and Dr. Philip Griebel and Dr. Scott Napper with Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, University of Saskatchewan.

CWD is a prion disease of the deer family—including mule deer, white-tailed deer, moose, elk, and caribou—that is similar to bovine spongiform encephalitis (BSE) in cattle. CWD is a fatal disease that spreads rapidly and has been detected in 28 US states and four Canadian provinces. Several vaccines have been shown to delay disease progression in animals. Research into CWD vaccines began in the early 2000s.

Facts about Chronic Wasting Disease
  • The first wild deer in the province confirmed to have CWD was found in September 2005 in southeastern Alberta along the eastern border.
  • More than 3,500 cases of CWD have been detected in wild deer in Alberta since 2005.
  • Any deer harvested in designated Wildlife Management Units (WMU) are required to be tested, while testing is available in other areas. Alberta Health recommends that humans should not consume infected animals. They should incinerate infected meat and carcasses or dispose of them in provincially approved landfill.
  • Controlling CWD in wildlife depends on developing an oral vaccine because of the disease’s aggressive rate of transmission and evidence of its ability to cause long-term environmental contamination.
  • A vaccine could reduce transmission and protect ungulate populations across the Prairies.

About us
Alberta Conservation Association is a non-profit association that conserves, protects, and enhances fish and wildlife populations and their habitats for Albertans to enjoy, value, and use. Find ACA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Media Contact
Todd Zimmerling, President and CEO
Alberta Conservation Association
780-410-1990 or 1-877-969-9091