OHSU

Prion Diseases

Prion diseases are a group of diseases that affect the brain and nervous system. They affect both humans and animals, and can be transmitted (shared) between humans and animals. Prion diseases cause degeneration (breakdown) of brain and nervous system tissues and function. They get worse with time. There is no cure for prion diseases.

How prion diseases cause damage

A prion is an abnormal molecule that causes healthy brain cells to change shape. This damages the brain and causes symptoms. Doctors and scientists can recognize the pattern of brain changes caused by prion diseases.

Because the patterns can look like a sponge, prion diseases are also called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies

Prion diseases

Human prion diseases include:

  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)
  • Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD)
  • Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker syndrome
  • Fatal familial insomnia
  • Kuru

Animal prion diseases include:

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