Introduction: The definitive diagnosis of genetic prion diseases (gPrD) requires pathological confirmation. To date, diagnosis has relied upon the finding of the biomarkers 14-3-3 protein and total tau (t-tau) protein in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), but many researchers have reported that these markers are not sufficiently elevated in gPrD, especially in Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker syndrome (GSS). We recently developed a new in vitro amplification technology, designated "real-time quaking-induced conversion (RT-QUIC)", to detect the abnormal form of prion protein in CSF from sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (sCJD) patients. In the present study, we aimed to investigate the presence of biomarkers and evaluate RT-QUIC assay in patients with gPrD, as the utility of RT-QUIC as a diagnostic tool in gPrD has yet to be determined. Method/Principal Findings: 56 CSF samples were obtained from gPrD patients, including 20 cases of GSS with P102L mutation, 12 cases of fatal familial insomnia (FFI; D178N), and 24 cases of genetic CJD (gCJD), comprising 22 cases with E200K mutation and 2 with V203I mutation. We subjected all CSF samples to RT-QUIC assay, analyzed 14-3-3 protein by Western blotting, and measured t-tau protein using an ELISA kit. The detection sensitivities of RT-QUIC were as follows: GSS (78%), FFI (100%), gCJD E200K (87%), and gCJD V203I (100%). On the other hand the detection sensitivities of biomarkers were considerably lower: GSS (11%), FFI (0%), gCJD E200K (73%), and gCJD V203I (67%). Thus, RT-QUIC had a much higher detection sensitivity compared with testing for biomarkers, especially in patients with GSS and FFI. Conclusion/Significance: RT-QUIC assay is more sensitive than testing for biomarkers in gPrD patients. RT-QUIC method would thus be useful as a diagnostic tool when the patient or the patient's family does not agree to genetic testing, or to confirm the diagnosis in the presence of a positive result for genetic testing.
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