There are several known variants of CJD. These variants differ somewhat in the symptoms and course of the disease. For example, a variant form of the disease-called new variant or variant (nv-CJD, v-CJD), described in Great Britain and France-begins primarily with psychiatric symptoms, affects younger patients than other types of CJD, and has a longer than usual duration from onset of symptoms to death. Another variant, called the panencephalopathic form, occurs primarily in Japan and has a relatively long course, with symptoms often progressing for several years. Scientists are trying to learn what causes these variations in the symptoms and course of the disease.
The Human Phenotype Ontology (HPO) provides the following list of features that have been reported in people with this condition. Much of the information in the HPO comes from Orphanet, a European rare disease database. If available, the list includes a rough estimate of how common a feature is (its frequency). Frequencies are based on a specific study and may not be representative of all studies. You can use the MedlinePlus Medical Dictionary for definitions of the terms below.
|Signs and Symptoms||Approximate number of patients (when available)|
|Increased CSF protein||5%|
|Autosomal dominant inheritance||-|
|Extrapyramidal muscular rigidity||-|
|Loss of facial expression||-|
|Supranuclear gaze palsy||-|
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. The harmless and infectious forms of the prion protein have the same sequence of amino acids (the 'building blocks' of proteins) but the infectious form of the protein takes a different folded shape than the normal protein. Sporadic CJD may develop because some of a person’s normal prions spontaneously change into the infectious form of the protein and then alter the prions in other cells in a chain reaction.
Once they appear, abnormal prion proteins aggregate, or clump together. Investigators think these protein aggregates may lead to the neuron loss and other brain damage seen in CJD. However, they do not know exactly how this damage occurs.
About 5 to 10 percent of all CJD cases are inherited. These cases arise from a mutation, or change, in the gene that controls formation of the normal prion protein. While prions themselves do not contain genetic information and do not require genes to reproduce themselves, infectious prions can arise if a mutation occurs in the gene for the body’s normal prion protein. If the prion protein gene is altered in a person’s sperm or egg cells, the mutation can be transmitted to the person’s offspring. Several different mutations in the prion gene have been identified. The particular mutation found in each family affects how frequently the disease appears and what symptoms are most noticeable. However, not all people with mutations in the prion protein gene develop CJD.
The only way to confirm a diagnosis of CJD is by brain biopsy or autopsy. In a brain biopsy, a neurosurgeon removes a small piece of tissue from the patient’s brain so that it can be examined by a neuropathologist. This procedure may be dangerous for the patient, and the operation does not always obtain tissue from the affected part of the brain. Because a correct diagnosis of CJD does not help the patient, a brain biopsy is discouraged unless it is needed to rule out a treatable disorder. In an autopsy, the whole brain is examined after death.Scientists are working to develop laboratory tests for CJD. One such test, developed at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), studies a person's cerebrospinal fluid to see of it contains a protein marker that indicates neuronal degeneration.This can help to diagnose CJD in people who already show the clinical symptoms of the disease. This test is much easier and safer than a brain biopsy. The false positive rate is about 5 to 10 percent. Scientists are working to develop this test for use in commercial laboratories. They are also working to develop other tests for this disorder.
Current treatment for CJD is aimed at alleviating symptoms and making the patient as comfortable as possible. Opiate drugs can help relieve pain if it occurs, and the drugs clonazepam and sodium valproate may help relieve myoclonus. During later stages of the disease, changing the person’s position frequently can keep him or her comfortable and helps prevent bedsores. A catheter can be used to drain urine if the patient cannot control bladder function, and intravenous fluids and artificial feeding also may be used.
Research helps us better understand diseases and can lead to advances in diagnosis and treatment. This section provides resources to help you learn about medical research and ways to get involved.
Nonprofit support and advocacy groups bring together patients, families, medical professionals, and researchers. These groups often raise awareness, provide support, and develop patient-centered information. Many are the driving force behind research for better treatments and possible cures. They can direct people to research, resources, and services. Many groups also have experts who serve as medical advisors. Visit their website or contact them to learn about the services they offer. Inclusion on this list is not an endorsement by GARD. Suggest an organization to add.
Living with a genetic or rare disease can impact the daily lives of patients and families. These resources can help families navigate various aspects of living with a rare disease.
These resources provide more information about this condition or associated symptoms. The in-depth resources contain medical and scientific language that may be hard to understand. You may want to review these resources with a medical professional.
Third Genome Dynamics in the Neurosciences Conference Sunday, July 18, 2010 -
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Location: The Hilton Metropole, Brighton, England
Description: The goal of this meeting was to integrate basic processes of DNA damage signaling and repair and clinical aspects of neurological and neurodegenerative disease. The program was designed to bring together leading scientists with primary interests in DNA damage signaling with those working in specific related neurodegenerative disease areas as a means for integrating these fields. It was anticipated that this would generate insights into how normal processes of genome maintenance in the brain contribute to the prevention of a wide range of diseases.
Contact: Dr. Danilo A. Tagle, NINDS(301) firstname.lastname@example.org
Co-funding Institute(s): National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Office of Rare Diseases Research
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I recently had a family member pass away as a result of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Can you provide me with more information about this condition? See answer