Comparison of candidate vCJD in vitro diagnostic assays using identical sample sets


Dr Jillian K. Cooper, NIBSC, CJD Resource Centre, Blanche Lane, South Mimms, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire EN6 3QG, UK


Background and Objectives  With four transfusion related transmissions of variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob Disease (vCJD), three of which developed clinical disease and the other died of other causes but was positive for markers of infection, there is an increased urgency to identify and implement a test for blood donor screening. With limited amounts of blood samples from vCJD cases available test evaluation is challenging. Alternative approaches are therefore needed. Control and vCJD tissues homogenates, where levels of markers of infectivity are known, were sequentially diluted in pooled human plasma. Identical sets of samples were provided blind to research groups developing diagnostic tests for vCJD; identical sample sets allows for direct comparisons of sensitivity to be made.

Materials and Methods  Control and vCJD tissue homogenates were sequentially diluted in pooled human plasma (detergent solvent treated or cryo-depleted) supplied by commercial fractionators. Dilutions of vCJD tissues were within and beyond the limits of detection previously determined by the conformation-dependent immunoassay (Cooper et al.: Vox Sang 2007;92:302–310; Bellon et al.: J Gen Virol 2003;84: 1921–1925). A number of methods were used for the analysis of the blinded panels; with background signal from the normal prion protein (PrP) being removed by digestion with proteinase, epitope protection or selective capture of PrPtse.

Results  Assay sensitivities were directly compared using identical sample sets. This approach identified several transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) diagnostic tests, based on different principles, high in analytical sensitivity that reproducibly detected markers of vCJD infectivity in tissue homogenates.

Conclusion  The approach outlined has successfully compared in vitro diagnostics assays for their sensitivity and reproducibility and is a first step toward the evaluation of an assay suitable for blood donor screening/diagnosis of vCJD.