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Picking Out the Prions

A team of Italian researchers has developed a new test to diagnose prion diseases like sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Live Science reports.

As they reported in JAMA Neurology, the researchers led by the University of Verona's Gianluigi Zanusso used an approach called real-time quaking-induced conversion (RT-QuIC) to assay cerebrospinal fluid and olfactory mucosa samples for disease-specific prion proteins. They applied this approach to samples from 86 patients with probable, possible, or suspected Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and 104 negative control samples. The researchers reported that all 61 patients with sporadic CJD had a positive RT-QuIC result and all patients found not to have a prion disease had a negative RT-QuIC result.

As Live Science notes, the test wasn't perfect when only cerebrospinal fluid or only olfactory mucosa samples were used. But with a two-step testing process, in which cerebrospinal fluid is tested first, followed by olfactory mucosa testing if that first test is negative, they could correctly diagnose their patient cohort.

This suggested to Zanusso and his colleagues that using such an assay would "improve the accuracy and speed of sporadic CJD diagnosis." The assay was less sensitive, they note, at uncovering genetic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.