Bob Shull, director of Wisconsin’s new veterinary diagnostic lab in Madison, said Wednesday workers were set to dive with both feet into the state’s chronic wasting disease surveillance activities.

“Our people are 100 percent fully trained and ready to do validation work,” Shull said.

The state-of-the-art facility was funded by a $901,600 state appropriation, with most of the dollars coming from hunters through license and permit fees, Shull said.

His staff plans to continue surveillance work, but also will screen and attempt to validate new CWD tests produced by international firm Biorad and a European company, Prionics.

“Our people will run the tests and supply the data to the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” Shull said.

The USDA has agreed to increase CWD laboratory testing in USDA certified labs to accommodate up to 200,000 additional CWD tests nationwide this year.

The tests would be available on-demand to hunters and would be done with the “gold standard” CWD test. Results probably will take 3 to 6 months.

Laurel Steffes, director of the Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Communication and Education, said the new on-demand test should not be confused with a hunter test being marketed through Gander Mountain stores.

That test, she said, involves a private lab that is not USDA certified. Test results are promised in a few weeks.

The DNR has made extensive plans to do statewide disease survellience starting next week during T-Zone and continuing in the November gun deer hunt.

“The large number of deer tested should give us population-sized data that is a more reliable indicator of whether or not CWD exists in a county’s deer population than an individual animal test,” Steffes said.

Meanwhile, Shull said international investigations are shedding light on how CWD relates to other prion diseases.

“There is some sentiment that CWD will turn out to be far more like scrapie than BSE,” Shull said.

Scrapie, a spongifrom encephalopathy disease of sheep, has been around since at least 1732, Shull said. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly called mad cow disease, jumped the species barrier and infected at least 125 Europeans in the 1990s.

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