Sporadic human prion diseases: molecular insights and diagnosis

Lancet Neurol. 2012 Jul;11(7):618-28. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(12)70063-7.


Human prion diseases can be sporadic, inherited, or acquired by infection. Distinct clinical and pathological characteristics separate sporadic diseases into three phenotypes: Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), fatal insomnia, and variably protease-sensitive prionopathy. CJD accounts for more than 90% of all cases of sporadic prion disease; it is commonly categorised into five subtypes that can be distinguished according to leading clinical signs, histological lesions, and molecular traits of the pathogenic prion protein. Three subtypes affect prominently cognitive functions whereas the other two impair cerebellar motor activities. An accurate and timely diagnosis depends on careful clinical examination and early performance and interpretation of diagnostic tests, including electroencephalography, quantitative assessment of the surrogate markers 14-3-3, tau, and of the prion protein in the CSF, and neuroimaging. The reliability of CSF tests is improved when these tests are interpreted alongside neuroimaging data.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Prion Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Prion Diseases / etiology*
  • Prion Diseases / therapy