Learn About Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

What is the definition of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease?

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a form of brain damage that leads to a rapid decrease in movement and loss of mental function.

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What are the alternative names for Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease?

Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy; vCJD; CJD; Jacob-Creutzfeldt disease

What are the causes of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease?

CJD is caused by a protein called a prion. A prion causes normal proteins to fold abnormally. This affects other proteins' ability to function.

CJD is very rare. There are several types. The classic types of CJD are:

Sporadic CJD makes up most cases. It occurs for no known reason. It starts on average at age 65 years.

Familial CJD occurs when a person inherits the abnormal prion from a parent (this form of CJD is rare).

Acquired CJD includes variant CJD (vCJD), the form related to mad cow disease.

  • Variant CJD is caused by eating infected meat. The infection that causes the disease in cows is thought to be the same one that causes vCJD in humans.
  • Variant CJD causes less than 1% of all CJD cases. It tends to affect younger people. Fewer than 200 people worldwide have had this disease. Almost all cases occurred in England and France.
  • Iatrogenic CJD is also an acquired form of the disease. Iatrogenic CJD is sometimes passed through a blood product transfusion, transplant, or contaminated surgical instruments.

CJD may be related to several other diseases caused by prions, including:

  • Chronic wasting disease (found in deer)
  • Kuru (affected mostly women in New Guinea who ate the brains of dead relatives as part of a funeral ritual)
  • Scrapie (found in sheep)
  • Other very rare inherited human diseases, such as Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker disease and fatal familial insomnia
What are the symptoms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease?

CJD symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Dementia that gets worse quickly over a few weeks or months
  • Blurred vision (sometimes)
  • Changes in gait (walking)
  • Confusion, disorientation
  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren't there)
  • Lack of coordination (for example, stumbling and falling)
  • Muscle stiffness, twitching
  • Feeling nervous, jumpy
  • Personality changes
  • Sleepiness
  • Sudden jerky movements or seizures
  • Trouble speaking
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What are the current treatments for Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease?

There is no cure for this condition. Different medicines have been tried to slow the disease, but none works well.

The goals of treatment include:

  • Provide a safe environment
  • Control aggressive or agitated behavior
  • Make the person comfortable
  • Meet the person's needs

This may require monitoring and assistance in the home or in a care facility. Family counseling may help the family cope with the changes needed for home care.

People with this condition may need help controlling unacceptable or dangerous behaviors. This involves rewarding positive behaviors and ignoring negative behaviors (when it is safe). They may also need help getting oriented to their surroundings. Sometimes, medicines are needed to help control aggression.

It is helpful for people with CJD and their family to seek legal advice early on. Advance directive, power of attorney, and other legal actions can make it easier to make decisions about the care of the person with CJD.

Who are the top Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Local Doctors?
Highly rated in

University Medical Center Göttingen

National Reference Center For Human Prion Diseases, Clinical Dementia Center, Georg August University 
Goettingen, NI, DE 

Inga Zerr is in Goettingen, Germany. Zerr is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. She is also highly rated in 11 other conditions, according to our data. Her top areas of expertise are Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, Fatal Familial Insomnia, Dementia, and Vascular Dementia.

Highly rated in

University Medical School

Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute 
Barcelona, CT, ES 

Franc Llorens is in Barcelona, Spain. Llorens is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. They are also highly rated in 8 other conditions, according to our data. Their top areas of expertise are Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, Fatal Familial Insomnia, Dementia, and Vascular Dementia.

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Highly rated in

MRC Prion Unit At UCL

London, ENG, GB 

Simon Mead is in London, United Kingdom. Mead is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. He is also highly rated in 13 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, Fatal Familial Insomnia, Kuru, and Dementia.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease?

The outcome of CJD is very poor. People with sporadic CJD are unable to care for themselves within 6 months or less after symptoms begin.

The disorder is fatal in a short time, usually within 8 months. People who have variant CJD get worse more slowly, but the condition is still fatal. A few people survive for as long as 1 or 2 years. The cause of death is usually infection, heart failure, or respiratory failure.

The course of CJD is:

  • Infection with the disease
  • Severe malnutrition
  • Dementia in some cases
  • Loss of ability to interact with others
  • Loss of ability to function or care for oneself
  • Death
When should I contact a medical professional for Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease?

CJD is not a medical emergency. However, early diagnosis and treatment may make the symptoms easier to control, give patients time to make advance directives and prepare for the end of life, and give families extra time to come to terms with the condition.

How do I prevent Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease?

Medical equipment that may be contaminated should be removed from service and disposed of. People known to have CJD should not donate a cornea or other body tissue.

Most countries now have strict guidelines for managing infected cows to avoid passing CJD to humans.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
Central nervous system and peripheral nervous system
What are the latest Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Clinical Trials?
Biomarker Profiling in Individuals at Risk for Prion Disease
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The Role of the Coagulation Pathway at the Synapse in Prion Diseases
What are the Latest Advances for Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease?
Prion protein monoclonal antibody (PRN100) therapy for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease: evaluation of a first-in-human treatment programme.
NT1-Tau Is Increased in CSF and Plasma of CJD Patients, and Correlates with Disease Progression.
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Parkinson's disease with a typical clinical course of 17 years overlapped by Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease: an autopsy case report.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date : July 26, 2021
Published By : Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Department of Neurology, Cooper Medical School at Rowan University, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Bosque PJ, Tyler KL. Prions and prion disease of the central nervous system (transmissible neurodegenerative diseases). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 179.

Tee BL, Geschwind MD. Prion diseases. In: Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, Newman NJ, eds. Bradley and Daroff's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 94.