Study examines blood test to screen for fatal variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

March 4, 2014

A blood test accurately screened for infection with the agent responsible for variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), a fatal neurological disease.

vCJD is a fatal degenerative brain disorder thought to be caused by a misfolded protein (prion) in the brain and contracted most commonly through eating infected beef. Up to 3 million cattle in the United Kingdom may have been infected with BSE (), and establishing accurate prevalence estimates through screening for vCJD infection would guide public health initiatives.

The researchers previously developed a test to detect low levels of prion protein in the blood. In this study, they used the test on samples from national blood collection and prion disease centers in the U.S. and the U.K. to see if it was accurate enough to screen large numbers of people. Samples represented U.S. blood donors (n=5,000), healthy U.K. donors (n=200), patients with nonprion neurodegenerative disease (n=352), patients in whom a diagnosis was likely (n=105) and patients with confirmed vCJD (n=10).

The test was perfectly specific, meaning it was always negative in negative American donor samples and healthy U.K. patient samples. No samples tested positive from patients with nonprion neurodegenerative disorders. The test found 71.4 percent of patients with vCJD correctly tested positive.

The prion assay (test) in this study is accurate enough to screen populations at risk for vCJD. "Most importantly, the prototype vCJD assay [test] has sufficient performance to justify now screening a large U.K. population sample and at-risk groups to produce an initial estimate of the level of prionemia [prions in the blood] in the U.K. population. … A blood prevalence study would provide essential information for policy makers for deciding if routine vCJD screening is needed for blood, tissue, and organ donations and patients prior to high-risk surgical procedures."

More information: JAMA Neurol. Published online March 3, 2014. DOI: 10.1001/.jamaneurol.2013.6001

Related Stories

Blood test for human form of mad cow disease developed

January 16, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Mad cow disease is serious business in the U.K., the human form, known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob after Hans Gerhard Creutzfeldt and Alfons Maria Jakob (CJD), who independently first described its existence ...

Recommended for you

Take a trip through the brain (w/ Video)

July 30, 2015

A new imaging tool developed by Boston scientists could do for the brain what the telescope did for space exploration. In the first demonstration of how the technology works, published July 30 in the journal Cell, the researchers ...

Improved memory thanks to irregular sleep-wake patterns

July 31, 2015

If you've had a good night's sleep, you are mentally more alert and your memory works more reliably. During sleep, a part of our forebrain called the prefrontal cortex remains active. It ensures that memories and learned ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.