National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine researchers have released a study raising concerns over the transmission of prion diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) through the skin.
Scientists who conducted the study, which was recently published in Science Translational Medicine, found an abnormal prion protein in the skin of over two dozen patients who died after contracting CJD, according to a press release. The results of a study bring to light the possible transmission of prion diseases like CJD through the skin such as during medical procedures and the possibility of using skin samples to detect prion diseases.
The study involved using healthy, laboratory mice and exposing them to brain or skin extracts from CJD patients. The exposed mice all developed prion disease which the scientists say should raise awareness about potential surgical instrument contamination.
“Perspective is important when interpreting these outcomes,” Byron Caughey, senior investigator of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) who helped oversee the study, said in the release. “This study used humanized mice with tissue extracts directly inoculated into the brain, so the system was highly primed for infection. There is no evidence that transmission can occur in real-world situations via casual skin contact. However, the results raise transmission questions that warrant further study.”
The scientists will continue studies involving using skin tissue samples as a diagnostic test for human and animal prion diseases, the release said.