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Prion diseases are rare, fatal disorders that have repeatedly raised public health concerns since the early 1990s. An active prion disease surveillance network providing national level data was implemented in France in 1992.


We aimed to describe the epidemiology of sporadic, genetic and infectious forms of prion diseases in France since surveillance implementation.


We included all suspected cases notified from January 1992 to December 2016, and cases who died during the period with a definite or probable prion disease diagnosis according to EuroCJD criteria. Demographic, clinical, genetic, neuropathological and biochemical data were collected.


In total, 25,676 suspected cases were notified and 2,907 were diagnosed as prion diseases, including 2,510 (86%) with sporadic Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (sCJD), 240 (8%) genetic and 157 (6%) with infectious prion disease. Suspected cases and sCJD cases increased over time. Younger sCJD patients (≤ 50 years) showed phenotypes related to a distinct molecular subtype distribution vs those above 50 years. Compared to other European countries, France has had a higher number of cases with iatrogenic CJD after growth hormone treatment and variant CJD (vCJD) linked to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (second after the United Kingdom), but numbers slowly decreased over time.


We observed a decrease of CJD infectious forms, demonstrating the effectiveness of measures to limit human exposure to exogenous prions. However, active surveillance is needed regarding uncertainties about future occurrences of vCJD, possible zoonotic potential of chronic wasting diseases in cervids and increasing trends of sCJD observed in France and other countries.


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