The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is conducting a multi-year study to evaluate the effectiveness of a vaccine against Chronic Wasting Disease at the Department’s Thorne/Williams Wildlife Research facility west of Wheatland.

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disease affecting elk, deer, and moose, but is not thought to affect humans.

The study, which began in February 2013, involves 40 elk—20 that have been vaccinated and 20 non-vaccinated elk serving as a control group. Previous research has shown elk naturally contract chronic wasting disease at the facility.

Dr. Mary Wood, Wyoming Game and Fish wildlife veterinarian, and other researchers are taking biopsies from both groups of elk and results from each group will be compared to determine if the vaccine is preventing infection.The biopsies of the vaccinated elk and those of the control group will be compared to see if there’s any difference in early infection rates.

 Dr.Wood said that right now they are injecting the elk with the vaccine by hand but if it were to work, they could look into other delivery methods such as an oral vaccine.

According to a release from the Game and Fish the study is expected to last about seven years after which it is hoped that it can be determined if the vaccine is giving the elk some protection against the disease. If the vaccine proves to be effective, wildlife managers could someday have an important tool to combat the disease.