High tau levels in cerebrospinal fluid predict nursing home placement and rapid progression in Alzheimer's disease

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Abstract

Background: Increased concentrations of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) total tau (t-tau) and phosphorylated tau, as well as decreased amyloid-β 42 peptide, are biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology, but few studies have shown an association with AD progression rate. We hypothesized that high CSF tau, as a marker of ongoing neurodegeneration, would predict a more aggressive course of AD, using time to nursing home placement (NHP) as the main outcome. Methods: Our sample inlcuded 234 patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) due to AD (n = 134) or mild to moderate AD (n = 100) who underwent lumbar puncture at a memory clinic and were followed for 2-11 years (median 4.9 years). Results: Individuals with CSF t-tau in the highest quartile (≥900 ng/L) had a higher ratio of NHP, both in the total cohort and in patients with MCI only (adjusted HR 2.17 [95 % CI 1.24-3.80]; HR 2.37 [95 % CI 1.10-5.09], respectively), than the lowest quartile. The association between high t-tau levels and future steep deterioration was confirmed in analyses with conversion to moderate dementia (HR 1.66; 95 % CI 1.08-2.56), rapid decline in Mini Mental State Examination score (≥4-point drop/12 months), and dying in severe dementia as outcomes. Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first study to show that high CSF t-tau levels predict early NHP and conversion to moderate dementia in an AD cohort. Selecting patients with high CSF t-tau, indicating more aggressive neurodegeneration and steeper decline, for AD immunotherapy trials might increase the possibility of showing contrast between active treatment and placebo.

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Degerman Gunnarsson, M., Ingelsson, M., Blennow, K., Basun, H., Lannfelt, L., & Kilander, L. (2016). High tau levels in cerebrospinal fluid predict nursing home placement and rapid progression in Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13195-016-0191-0

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