Urine test for CJD ‘a pos­si­bil­ity’

Malta Independent - - HEALTH -

Urine could po­ten­tially be used for a quick and sim­ple way to test for CJD or “hu­man mad cow dis­ease”, say sci­en­tists in the jour­nal JAMA Neu­rol­ogy.

The Med­i­cal Re­search Coun­cil team say their pro­to­type test still needs honing be­fore it could be used rou­tinely.

Cur­rently there is no easy test avail­able for this rare but fa­tal brain con­di­tion.

In­stead, doc­tors have to take a sam­ple of spinal fluid or brain tis­sue, or wait for a post-mortem af­ter death.

What they look for is tell-tale de­posits of ab­nor­mal pro­teins called pri­ons, which cause the brain dam­age.

Build­ing on ear­lier US work, Dr Gra­ham Jack­son and col­leagues, from Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don, have now found it is also pos­si­ble to de­tect pri­ons in urine.

This might of­fer a way to di­ag­nose CJD rapidly and ear­lier, they say, although there is no cure.

The study looked at urine sam­ples from 162 peo­ple. Of these: • 91 were healthy con­trols • 34 had neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­ease that was not thought to be caused by CJD • 37 had a di­ag­no­sis of CJD (20 of these were spo­radic CJD) The urine test gave no “false­pos­i­tive” re­sults - mean­ing it did not falsely sug­gest there was CJD in any of the pa­tients known not to have the dis­ease.

But it was less re­li­able when it came to de­tect­ing ac­tual cases.

It ac­cu­rately de­tected just un­der half of the spo­radic CJD pa­tients and even fewer of the vCJD pa­tients.

The re­searchers hope they will be able to im­prove the test fur­ther so it can re­li­ably de­tect all types of CJD.

Dr Jack­son said: “Although there is cur­rently no cure for this dis­ease, an ac­cu­rate and early di­ag­no­sis is ex­tremely im­por­tant for pa­tients and their fam­i­lies.

“In the fu­ture, as tri­als of po­ten­tial ther­a­pies be­come avail­able, the ear­lier a pa­tient can be di­ag­nosed the more ef­fec­tive any treat­ment is likely to be.

“This test could be a crit­i­cal step for­ward.”

To date, more than 2,000 UK peo­ple are thought to have died from CJD.

In the UK, a per­son’s life­time risk for de­vel­op­ing spo­radic CJD is about one in 5,000.

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