Aug 08, 2014 05:05 AM EDT
Texas Researchers Develop New Urine Test to Detect “Mad Cow” Disease in Humans
University of Texas researchers have developed a new urine test to detect a severe version of "Mad Cow" disease in humans.
The researchers said that the urine of people suffering from "variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob" contain very small amounts of misfolded and infectious prion protein that cause the disease. People develop the disease following consumption of beef contaminated with infectious prions from cattle.
Since prions are present in smaller quantities to be detected by laboratory tests, the researchers used ultrasound waves to accelerate their replication process. This technique allowed the prions to grow to a detectable level.
The new test detected misfolded prions in the urine of 13 out of 14 patients with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a 93 percent success rate. The test, however, did not give positive results for people with other forms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or with other brain diseases.
The researchers said that as a result, it is now easier to diagnose or screen for variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease using a simple urine test.
"This study reports, for the first time, the detection of the abnormal prion protein in the urine from patients with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease using the protein misfolding amplification technique pioneered by Dr. Claudio Soto," said co-author James W. Ironside, FMedSci, professor of clinical neuropathology at the National CJD Research and Surveillance Unit at the University of Edinburgh, in a press release.
"This has great potential to allow the development of a highly sensitive and specific non-invasive test that can be used for the diagnosis of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and potentially as a screening tool for variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease infection in asymptomatic individuals, which is a topic of current interest in the United Kingdom."
The researchers said that although only about 230 people in the world have been diagnosed with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, doctors believe that there could be carriers unaware that they are affected.
"If there are many people silently incubating this infectious material, they may be infecting other people and causing many more cases," said study researcher Claudio Soto, a professor of neurology at the Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) MEDICAL SCHOOL, cbs local reports.
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