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Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a rare, rapidly worsening brain disorder that causes unique changes in brain tissue and affects muscle coordination thinking, and memory. There are about 350 cases per year in the U.S.
The two main symptoms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are:
Early symptoms of the disease may include:
As Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease progresses, symptoms may include:
Some symptoms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease can be similar to symptoms of other progressive (continuing to worsen) neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer disease and Huntington disease. However, these symptoms tend to worsen faster in CJD than in Alzheimer disease or most other types of dementia.
There are three major categories of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, including:
Who is more likely to get Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease?
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease usually appears in later life, typically around age 60, and quickly gets worse. About 70 percent of people having Creutzfeldt-Jakob diseasedie within one year. A person cannot get Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease through the air or by touching something like a doorknob or being close to someone who has Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Still, doctors recommend that people with suspected or confirmed Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or who have a family history of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease should not donate blood, organs, or tissue.
There is a very small risk that a surgeon or others who handle brain tissue following a brain biopsy or autopsy may become accidentally infected. Special surgical and disinfection procedures can markedly reduce this risk. There is no evidence that caregivers, healthcare workers, and those who prepare bodies for funerals and cremation have an increased risk of prion disease when compared to the general population.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is caused by abnormal forms of proteins called prions. Proteins are long chains of amino acids that fold together into a unique shape or conformation to help a cell function in a particular way. The normal and harmless prion protein is found throughout the body but is most abundant in the nervous system. Its overall role is not fully understood. This abnormal folding or conformation is “transmitted” to normal prion proteins in surrounding nerve cells, causing them to become infective and changed to one that results in the disease. Once they are formed, abnormal prion proteins aggregate, or clump together, which may lead to the nerve cell loss and other brain damage seen in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease belongs to a family of human and animal diseases known as the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) or prion diseases. The infective prion causes Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and related disorders in people and TSEs in animals. Spongiform refers to the characteristic appearance of infected brains, which become filled with holes until they resemble sponges when examined under a microscope.
Human prion diseases include:
Animal prion diseases include:
The normal, harmless prion protein is usually designated as PrPC ("C" stands for cellular) and the abnormal, infectious form (which causes the disease) is PrPSc ("Sc" stands for prototypical prion disease–scrapie).
How is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease diagnosed and treated?
Diagnosing Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. There are a few tests a doctor can use to help diagnose Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease:
The only way to confirm a diagnosis of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is by brain biopsy or an autopsy. In a brain biopsy, a neurosurgeon removes a small piece of tissue from the living person's brain so it can be examined by a neuropathologist. This procedure may be dangerous for the individual and is generally discouraged unless it is needed to rule out a treatable disorder. In an autopsy, the whole brain is examined after death.
Treating Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Currently there is no cure for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, although some drugs are being tested to control it. Today's treatments are aimed at making the person comfortable and easing symptoms. Medications may help relieve pain and muscle jerks. During later stages of the disease, intravenous fluids and machine feeding also may be used.
What are the latest updates on Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease?
Researchers are examining and characterizing the prions associated with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and other human and animal prion diseases. A better understanding of these diseases may help scientists discover factors that influence prion infectivity and transmission, and how the disorder damages the brain. Researchers are investigating the cellular mechanisms involved in abnormal prion formation and accumulation, as well as their replication by select cellular subsets in the brain. Other projects are examining how abnormal prions cross the protective blood-brain barrier and spread throughout the central nervous system, and tests that measure the biological activity of prions. Findings may identify new therapeutic targets to treat prion diseases.
Other NIH Institutes, including the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also conduct research on Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. More information about Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease research supported by NINDS and other NIH Institutes and Centers can be found using NIH RePORTER, a searchable database of current and past research projects supported by NIH and other federal agencies. RePORTER also includes links to publications and resources from these projects.
For research articles and summaries on Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, search PubMed, which contains citations from medical journals and other sites.
How can I or my loved one help improve care for people with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease?
Consider participating in a clinical trial so clinicians and scientists can learn more about Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Clinical research uses human volunteers to help researchers learn more about a disorder and perhaps find better ways to safely detect, treat, or prevent disease.
All types of volunteers are needed—those who are healthy or may have an illness or disease—of all different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that study results apply to as many people as possible, and that treatments will be safe and effective for everyone who will use them.
For information about participating in clinical research visit NIH Clinical Research Trials and You. Learn about clinical trials currently looking for people with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease at Clinicaltrials.gov, a database of federal and privately funded trials and research results.
Scientists are conducting biochemical analyses of brain tissue, blood, spinal fluid, urine, and serum in the hope of determining the nature of the transmissible agent or agents causing Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. To help with this research, they are seeking biopsy and autopsy tissue, blood, and cerebrospinal fluid from individuals with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and related diseases. The following investigators have expressed an interest in receiving such material:
Dr. Brian Appleby, Director
National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center
Case Western Reserve University
Dr. Laura Manuelidis
Manuelidis TSE Laboratory
Yale University School of Medicine
Where can I find more information about Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease?
Information may be available from the following organizations:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Phone: 800-311-3435 or 404-639-3311
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) Foundation
National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
Content source: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/creutzfeldt-jakob-disease Accessed July 12, 2023.
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