Researchers detect prions with skin tests

Research: News Roundup from the March 2019 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

Researchers have successfully detected prions in inoculated rodents using two methods, Science Daily reports.

Prions are protein particles that cause BSE in cattle, chronic wasting disease in elk and deer, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. Right now detecting the disease is difficult, generally requiring a biopsy or autopsy so brain tissue can be examined.

Dr. Wen-Quan Zou, a researcher and professor at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, worked with an international research team to detect prions before clinical symptoms arise. The study, published in Nature Communications, details how Zou and colleagues detected prions in skin samples as early as two weeks post-infection. They also detected prions in the skin of rodents that had not been inoculated, but were housed next to the inoculated rodents, showing that nearby rodents can be infected. Researchers also sampled brain tissue from the rodents.

Next researchers will develop the skin test for clinical use. The full study is available at nature.com.

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