Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences

Urine test for CJD developed

An international team including researchers from CCB has published research suggesting that people carrying variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) could be identified from a urine test.

Variant CJD - which is linked to bovine spongiform encephalophathy (BSE) in cattle - is caused by infectious proteins called prions.

Using a new, high-powered technique, the researchers discovered that patients with variant CJD had traces of prions in their urine. The technique, called protein misfolding cyclic amplification, was developed at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston. It amplifies minute quantities of abnormal prion protein, enabling highly sensitive detection.

This is the first time that we have been able to detect prions in the urine of patients with variant CJD. It opens the door to the development of a screening tool for people infected with CJD who do not show any symptoms, which is of particular concern in the UK for securing the safety of our blood supply.

Professor James IronsideNational CJD Research & Surveillance Unit, Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh

The disease remains very rare - 229 people have died from variant CJD since it was first identified almost 20 years ago, of which 177 were from the UK. However, it has been estimated that as many as one in 2000 people in the UK could be carrying infectious prions without showing any symptoms.

The findings are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

This could lead to the development of commercial technology for diagnosis as well as to determine the safety of donated blood and urinary products.

Claudio SotoProfessor of Neurology, The University of Texas Medical School at Houston