Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a rare, fatal, neurodegenerative disease caused by a transmissible agent designated as proteinaceous infectious agent (prion). Searching for biochemical markers of CJD, we analysed cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples of 53 patients for tau-protein using an enzyme linked immunoassay (ELISA). In a group of 21 patients with definite CJD seen in the German case control study for CJD, tau-protein concentrations in CSF were significantly higher than in two control-groups of patients with other diseases (median 13,153 pg/ml, range 1,533-27,648 pg/ml; P = 0.0001). One group comprised 19 patients who were seen in the same study and were diagnosed as having other dementing diseases (tau concentration: median 558 pg/ml, range 233-1,769 pg/ml). The second control group comprised 13 patients from our hospital with no dementing disease (tau concentration: median 296 pg/ml, range 109-640 pg/ml). We conclude that determination of tau protein levels in CSF is a useful marker for laboratory diagnosis of CJD.