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."

Explore further: NIH study describes fast, sensitive blood test for human prion disease

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

Deciphering the olfactory receptor code

August 31, 2015

In animals, numerous behaviors are governed by the olfactory perception of their surrounding world. Whether originating in the nose of a mammal or the antennas of an insect, perception results from the combined activation ...

Neuron responsible for alcoholism found

September 2, 2015

Scientists have pinpointed a population of neurons in the brain that influences whether one drink leads to two, which could ultimately lead to a cure for alcoholism and other addictions.

New mechanism discovered behind infant epilepsy

September 3, 2015

Scientists at Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden have discovered a new explanation for severe early infant epilepsy. Mutations in the gene encoding the protein KCC2 can cause the disease, hereby ...

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.