Heidenhain variant of sporadic creutzfeldt-jakob disease: First reported case from east africa

Dilraj Sokhi, Fazal Yakub, Karishma Sharma, Sheila Waa, Peter Mativo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (sCJD) is a rare prion disease that causes rapidly progressive fatal neurodegeneration. The rarer Heidenhain variant of sCJD presents with visual symptoms and is rarely reported in the literature from sub-Saharan Africa. We report the case of a 57-year-old male with a three-week history of losing direction when driving home and visual hallucinations described as seeing rainbows. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain revealed unilateral parieto-occipital sulcal hyperintensities with restriction on diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI), and electroencephalography (EEG) showed right para-central slowing leading to an initial diagnosis of non-convulsive status epilepticus. He was treated with anti-epileptic medication but was re-admitted less than a month later with worsening spatial memory, aggression, ataxia, dysarthria, myoclonic jerks and a positive startle response, later developing generalised tonic-clonic seizures. Repeat MRI brain scan showed widespread posterior-predominant sulcal DWI restriction in a cortical ribboning pattern pathognomonic for sCJD. EEG showed diffuse slowing, and cerebrospinal fluid was analyzed for abnormal prion protein using real-time quaking-induced conversion but was inconclusive due to suboptimal sample collection. The patient fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for probable sCJD, Heidenhain variant; the family declined brain biopsy for definitive diagnosis. He was subsequently palliated at a local hospice where he died approximately three months after the onset of symptoms. Our case highlights the presence of a rare form of sCJD, and the diagnostic challenges faced in our resource-limited setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-44
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Medical Case Reports Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Heidenhain variant
  • Prion
  • Sub-Saharan Africa


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