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NIH study suggests that early detection is possible for prion diseases
Date:12/2/2010

A fast test to diagnose fatal brain conditions such as mad cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans could be on the horizon, according to a new study from National Institutes of Health scientists. Researchers at NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have developed a highly sensitive and rapid new method to detect and measure infectious agents called prions that cause these diseases.

"Although relatively rare in humans and other animals, prion diseases are devastating to those infected and can have huge economic impacts," says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of NIAID. "Scientists have promising concepts for developing therapies for people infected with prion diseases, but treatments only are helpful if it is known who needs them. This detection model could eventually bridge that gap."

Prion diseases are primarily brain-damaging conditions also known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. They are difficult to diagnose, untreatable and ultimately fatal. A key physical characteristic of these diseases is dead tissue that leaves sponge-like holes in the brain. Prion diseases include mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle; scrapie in sheep; Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans; and chronic wasting disease in deer, elk and moose. For more information about NIAID research on prion diseases, visit the NIAID Prion Diseases portal.

Currently available diagnostic tests lack the sensitivity, speed or quantitative capabilities required for many important applications in medicine, agriculture, wildlife biology and research. Because prion infections can be present for decades before disease symptoms appear, a better test might create the possibility for early treatment to stop the spread of disease and prevent death.

Now, a blending of previous test concepts by the NIAID group has led to the development of a new prion detection method, called real time quaking in
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Contact: Ken Pekoc
kpekoc@niaid.nih.gov
301-402-1663
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Source:Eurekalert

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