Writing in the June 12 PLOS Pathogens, researchers led by Olivier Andréoletti at the National Veterinary School of Toulouse, France, report a technique to detect tiny amounts of toxic prions in blood.
The researchers hope such a test will be used to determine the prevalence of latent vCJD in the European population, especially in the United Kingdom, where exposure to the disease was highest. Such a test could also prove useful for screening donor blood prior to transfusion, but a lack of political will prevents it from moving forward, according to Andréoletti and other researchers.
The study provides the first evidence that vCJD can be detected in asymptomatic primates, which most closely model the human forms of the disease. The results suggest that asymptomatic human carriers may also be detected with the test.