The United States is experiencing a nationwide shortage of test kits for identifying chronic wasting disease (CWD) in cervids such as deer, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) said in a news release, noting that the backlog is causing "significant delays."
The TWRA said it has a backlog of about 2,180 samples that cannot be processed until new tests arrive. The test manufacturer, Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc, expects more test kits to become available by the end of the month. Before the shortage, the TWRA's testing turnaround time for deer samples submitted by hunters was 8 to 12 days.
"TWRA is in active communications with our partners to monitor the number of affected samples and to assist in any way possible," said Wildlife and Forestry Chief Joe Benedict, MS. "Samples will be held at the lab until they are able to be processed, and TWRA recommends hunters keep venison packaged separately in the freezer until test results have been returned."
The Veterinary Diagnostics Laboratory at the University of Minnesota says on its website, "There is currently a testing delay due to a shortage of raw materials. Normally, turn around time for CWD is approximately 3-6 weeks. This will now be longer for an undefined period of time."
Texas Parks & Wildlife states, "Due to a national shortage, the kits used to perform ELISA testing for Chronic Wasting Disease are currently unavailable. TVMDL [Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostics Laboratory] apologizes for this delay and is actively working with the National Veterinary Services Laboratory to receive validated kits. TVMDL will expedite testing as soon as kits are received."
CWD is a prion disease that is always fatal to members of the deer family. It has not yet been identified in people, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns against eating the meat of CWD-infected animals, and CWD testing is a crucial part of that prevention process.