J Clin Pathol 57:300-302 doi:10.1136/jcp.2003.012278
  • Original article

Specificity of lymphoreticular accumulation of prion protein for variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease

  1. D A Hilton1,
  2. J Sutak1,
  3. M E F Smith1,
  4. M Penney1,
  5. L Conyers1,
  6. P Edwards1,
  7. L McCardle2,
  8. D Ritchie2,
  9. M W Head2,
  10. C A Wiley3,
  11. J W Ironside2
  1. 1Department of Histopathology, Derriford Hospital, PL6 8DH, UK
  2. 2National CJD Surveillance Unit, University of Edinburgh, Western General Hospital, Crewe Road, Edinburgh EH4 2XU, UK
  3. 3Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr D A Hilton
 Department of Histopathology, Derriford Hospital, Plymouth PL6 8DH, UK
  • Accepted 16 September 2003


Background: Immunocytochemical accumulation of prion protein (PrP) in lymphoid tissues is a feature of variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (vCJD) that has been used both to aid in the diagnosis of patients and as a basis of large scale screening studies to assess the prevalence of preclinical disease in the UK. However, the specificity of this approach is unknown.

Aim: To assess the specificity of lymphoreticular accumulation of PrP for vCJD by examining a range of human diseases.

Methods: Paraffin wax embedded lymphoreticular tissues from patients with several reactive conditions (58 cases), tumours (27 cases), vCJD (54 cases), and other human prion diseases (56 cases) were assessed. PrP accumulation was assessed by immunocytochemistry using two different monoclonal anti-PrP antibodies and a sensitive detection system.

Results: All cases of vCJD showed widespread lymphoreticular accumulation of PrP; however, this was not seen in the other conditions examined.

Conclusion: Lymphoreticular accumulation of PrP, as assessed by immunocytochemistry, appears to be a highly specific feature of vCJD.