Researchers from New York University are claiming to have developed a vaccination regimen that can effectively fight off brain-wasting disease, like Mad Cow disease, which can infect deer and other animals. They say that this will solve problems on two fronts: preventing livestock infection and also halting a risk of these diseases jumping to humans.

That's t least according to a study recently published in the journal Vaccine, which details how the vaccination has seen its first success in protecting trial populations from chronic wasting disease (CWD).

CWD is a rare and often fatal kind of disease that is caused by unusual and infectious types of proteins called "prions." These deadly and harmful proteins spread by converting "good" proteins over to their side, exponentially turning a body against itself.

There are a number of infectious diseases in humans that suspected to be caused by prions (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, kuru, and familial insomnia to name a few) but because we know so little about the mechanics of these harmful proteins, it has been difficult to identify and treat them.

CWD, however, is one illness for which researchers are certain prions are the cause. Afflicting as much as 100 percent of North America's captive deer and elk population, it is not nearly as aggressive and fatal as Europe's infamous Mad Cow Disease (another prion disease). However, it still poses a threat, especially if it were to somehow jump to human populations.

That's why researcher sought to developed a vaccination that was first tested on mice, and was later tested with stunning success among deer.

Five deer in all were given the anti-prion vaccine, while another six members of the same captive test herd were given a placebo. The five vaccinated deer were also given eight booster shots over the course of the study until key antibodies were detected. The deer population was monitored for two years, and in that time, all six of the placebo group contracted CWD. Four of the vaccinated group also eventually contracted the disease, but after a much longer period of time. Amazingly, the fifth vaccinated deer remains immune.

"Now that we have found that preventing prion infection is possible in animals, it's likely feasible in humans as well," senior study investigator and neurologist Thomas Wisniewski added in a statement.

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