University Hospital testing for rare brain disorder

University Hospital is awaiting test results on a patient that might have a rare brain disorder, a spokeswoman said.

In March, University Hospital admitted a patient who appeared to be suffering from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, spokeswoman Erica Cline said.

Samples were taken and sent off to “one of the few specialty laboratories in the country capable of performing the test,” she said. “And the results are not yet back.”

The tests have a 30-day turnaround time but the hospital is not sure when they are due back.

The patient, who was admitted around mid-March, has since been released to hospice care and the hospital is not sure of his current status, Ms. Cline said.

The disease, which has no cure and is generally fatal within a year, can show up spontaneously in a patient, can be inherited or can be acquired, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. An acquired form of it called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in Great Britain and some other countries is believed to be linked to eating meat from cattle infected with a similar disease called bovine spongiform encephalopathy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is sometimes called “mad cow disease.” There have been only three variant acquired cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the U.S., two who acquired it in Great Britain and one who acquired it in Saudi Arabia, according to the CDC.

University does not know at this point what form of the disease the patient has, Ms. Cline said.

“You also have to take into consideration that the disease itself has an incredibly long incubation period,” she said. “Where this person contracted the disease or if it is inherited, that’s a question that will have to be answered. But we can’t address that right now.”

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