Creutzfeldt–Jakob or CJD is a degenerative neurological disease that is incurable and invariably fatal. CJD is at times called a human form of mad cow disease. CJD is caused by an agent called a prion. Prions are misfolded proteins that replicate by converting their properly folded counterparts, in their host, to the same misfolded structure they possess. CJD causes the brain tissue to degenerate rapidly, and as the disease destroys the brain, the brain develops holes and the texture changes to resemble that of a kitchen sponge. The first symptom of CJD is rapidly progressive dementia, leading to memory loss, personality changes, and hallucinations. Other frequently occurring features include anxiety, depression, paranoia, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, and psychosis.
CJD is a rare, degenerative, invariably fatal brain disorder. It affects about one person in every one million people per year worldwide; in the United States there are about 300 cases per year. CJD usually appears in later life and runs a rapid course. Typically, onset of symptoms occurs about age 60, and about 90 percent of individuals die within 1 year.
No generally accepted treatment for CJD exists; the disease is invariably fatal and research continues. Amphotericin B and Doxorubicin have been investigated as potentially effective against CJD, but as yet there is no strong evidence that either drug is effective in stopping the disease. Further study has been taken with other medical drugs, but none are effective. However, drugs to reduce suffering do exist, and include valproate, an anticonvulsant agent, clonazepam and benzodiazepine, to reduce muscle jerks.
Scientists from the University of California, San Francisco are currently running a treatment trial for sporadic CJD using quinacrine, a medicine originally created for malaria. Pilot studies showed quinacrine permanently cleared abnormal prion proteins from cell cultures, but results have not yet been published on their clinical study. The efficacy of quinacrine was also assessed in a rigorous clinical trial in the UK and the results were published in Lancet Neurology, and concluded that quinacrine had no measurable effect on the clinical course of CJD.