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The World in Medicine
June 14, 2000

Diagnosing Prion Disease

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JAMA. 2000;283(22):2923. doi:10.1001/jama.283.22.2923

German researchers have developed a sensitive new method to detect prions, the infectious proteins that cause neurodegenerative Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans and bovine spongiform encephalitis in cattle.

The technique, devised by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry and the University of Göttingen, both in Göttingen, Germany, uses fluorescent spectroscopy to detect prions in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Until now, the only way to arrive at a definite diagnosis of prion disease has been to locate accumulated prion protein in brain tissue during postmortem examinations.