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BMJ 2011; 342 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d784 (Published 08 February 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d784

UK researchers develop prototype blood test for vCJD

Researchers have developed a prototype blood test for variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) that exploits the powerful attraction between abnormal prion proteins and some metals. A solid matrix enriched with steel particles captures and concentrates abnormal prions in blood, bringing them within range of detection by commercially available assays. When researchers ran their new test on 190 masked blood samples, 15 of the 21 from people with clinical vCJD tested positive (sensitivity 71.4%, 95% CI 47.8% to 88.7%). All 169 blood samples from normal controls, people with sporadic CJD, or those with other neurological diseases tested negative (specificity 100%, 97.8% to 100%).

This is a very promising start, says a linked comment (doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60057-3). The prototype picked up almost three quarters of the cases from a small series, and it can clearly find the tiny amounts of abnormal prion protein present in blood from people with clinical vCJD. Pathological prion proteins cannot be detected in conventional assays of blood. An accurate blood test for vCJD would be a breakthrough, particularly if it worked for asymptomatic people harbouring the disease, who presumably have even fewer abnormal prion proteins in the bloodstream than those with clinical disease. We don’t know how many people in the UK and elsewhere have subclinical or preclinical vCJD, and screening blood donors is currently impossible. This preliminary study shows that a blood test is at least technically feasible. Further research is planned to find out if the test can ever be good enough to use on a large scale in a clinical setting.

Restricted diets can improve symptoms of ADHD

Further evidence of a link between food and behaviour in children has recently emerged from a randomised trial of dietary restriction for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children aged 4-8 who were fed an elimination diet based on rice, meat, vegetables, pears, and …

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