The first time CWD was detected in Europe was in wild reindeer in Norway in 2016. The disease that affects the brain is fatal and extremely challenging to eradicate. And there are no treatments or vaccines that can slow down the progression of animals that are infected.
But now a new research project in Norway gives some hope where breeding from animals with resistant genes can save the reindeer.
The project is funded by the Research Council of Norway and led by Michael Andreas Tranulis, professor, at NMBU Veterinary College.
"This project will last for four years and we hope that it will significantly increase resistance to the disease among domestic reindeer in southern Norway," Tranulis told NRK Sápmi.
Learned after the eruption
He says that they already know a lot about the genetics that govern CWD and that the outbreak in 2016 where 2,200 wild reindeer were to be killed gave many answers to which animals are most sensitive.
"The aim of the project is to remove them from breeding in domestic reindeer husbandry, so that they gradually gain increased resistance in their herds. This, in turn, will reduce the risk of the disease spreading in Norway, because it is a disease that we are very afraid of.
"Combating this disease and reducing the risk of spreading it is something that must be a high priority. And that's what this project is all about," he says.
Concerns among reindeer herders
Several reindeer herders are worried about contracting the deadly disease.
"If that happens, it's a complete disaster. It is a terrible disease and there is a hundred percent mortality rate in the animals that have developed it, says Dag Inge Bakke, chairman of Vågå Tamreinlag.
But they are positive about the research project and that the issue is being taken very seriously.
"CWD is a disease that no one wants. We have been given some hope that it is possible to help protect oneself through genetic research. It's something we welcome and want to be a part of, as the disease is huge," he says.