Background: Total Tau concentration in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is widely used as a biomarker in the diagnosis of neurodegenerative process primarily in Alzheimer's disease (AD). A particularly high Tau level may indicate AD but may also be associated with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). In such situations little is known about the distribution of differential diagnoses.
Objective: Our study aimed to describe the different diagnoses encountered in clinical practice for patients with dementia and CSF Tau levels over 1000 pg/ml. We studied the p-Tau/Tau ratio to specify its ability to distinguish AD from CJD.
Methods: Patients (n = 202) with CSF Tau levels over 1000 pg/ml were recruited in three memory clinics in France. All diagnoses were made using the same diagnostic procedure and criteria.
Results: Patients were diagnosed with AD (n = 148, 73.2%), mixed dementia (n = 38, 18.8%), CJD, vascular dementia (n = 4, 2.0% for each), Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia (n = 3, 1.5% for each). Dispersion of CSF Tau levels clearly showed an overlap between all diagnoses. Using the p-Tau/Tau ratio suggestive of CJD (<0.075), all CJD patients were correctly categorized and only two AD patients were miscategorized. This ratio was highly associated with CJD compared to AD (p < 0.0001).
Conclusion: Our study showed that in clinical practice, extremely high CSF Tau levels are mainly related to diagnosis of AD. CJD patients represent a minority. Our results support a sequential interpretation algorithm for CSF biomarkers in dementia. High CSF Tau levels should alert clinicians to check the p-Tau/Tau ratio to consider a probable diagnosis of CJD.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; cerebrospinal fluid biomarker; dementia; tau.