Professor said, "We believe in six months or so we should have the technology optimized to detect prions in human blood. The next step is to make sure we can detect them in blood before the clinical symptoms appear."
A blood test would be the simplest way to screen donors and keep infected meat from entering the human food chain, but the prion concentration in blood is too small for it to be detected. So, the researchers have taken a different approach of using a biochemical techniques to amplify the quantity of prions in diseased blood millions of times, making them easier to detect. Scientists believe the BSE epidemic of the 1980s could have exposed millions of people in the UK and Europe to infectious prions. "We want to know what we're facing in 10 or 20 years from now. Let us see whether we have thousands or hundreds of people infected.
We have to be prepared," Prof. Soto said. Discovering that a large scale epidemic was looming would prompt drug companies to search harder for treatments, he added.