High-pressure neurologic syndrome
Mar. 30, 2023
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Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), also known as prion diseases, are a group of rare degenerative brain disorders characterized by tiny holes that give the brain a "spongy" appearance. These holes can be seen when brain tissue is viewed under a microscope.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is the most well-known of the human TSEs. Other human TSEs include:
A relatively new type of CJD known as variant CJD (vCJD) was first described in 1996. Research suggests that vCJD may have resulted from human consumption of beef from cattle with a TSE disease called bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as Mad Cow Disease. Other TSEs found in animals include:
In a few rare cases, TSEs have occurred in other mammals such as zoo animals. These cases are probably caused by contaminated feed. CJD and other TSEs also can be transmitted experimentally to mice and other animals in the laboratory.
Research suggests that TSEs are caused by an abnormal version of a protein called a prion (short for proteinaceous infectious particle). Prion proteins occur in both a normal form, which is a harmless protein found in the body's cells, and in an infectious form, which causes disease.
Human TSEs can occur three ways:
Symptoms of TSEs vary, but they commonly include:
Individuals also may experience involuntary jerking movements called myoclonus, unusual sensations, insomnia, confusion, or memory problems. In the later stages of the disease, patients have severe mental impairment and lose the ability to move or speak.
There is currently no treatment that can halt progression of any of the TSEs. Treatment is aimed at alleviating symptoms and making the individual as comfortable as possible. TSEs tend to progress rapidly and usually culminate in death over the course of a few months to a few years.
How can I or my loved one help improve care for people with transmissible spongiform encephalopathies?
Consider participating in a clinical trial so clinicians and scientists can learn more about TSEs and related disorders. 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.
Where can I find more information about transmissible spongiform encephalopathies?
Information may be available from the following resources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Phone: 800-311-3435, 404-639-3311 or 404-639-3543
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) Foundation Inc.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Phone: 301-827-4573 or 888-463-6332
Content source: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/transmissible-spongiform-encephalopathies Accessed June 29, 2023.
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