A major problem in attempting to deal with prion diseases in humans and livestock has been, and to some extent still is, the paucity of practical and sensitive clinical assays for routine detection of prions. To date, most of the assays directed toward prion detection primarily use brain tissue as the primary sample type. The principles of the present tests include western blot, ELISA, optical fiber laser immunoassay, and thioflavin T (ThT) detection. Turnaround time averages from two to sixteen days.
Assays have recently been developed that are bringing ultrasensitive prion detection into the realm of practical application. Thus far, evaluations indicate these enhanced assays appear to be very sensitive and have quantitative attributes. Their use of CSF, blood, and plasma as sample types not only makes the possibility of an earlier diagnosis more real, but the capability of testing blood could help prevent possible transfusion-based transmissions of prion diseases.