The biological definition of Alzheimer's disease using CSF biomarkers requires abnormal levels of both amyloid (A) and tau (T). However, biomarkers and corresponding cutoffs may not always reflect the presence or absence of pathology. Previous studies suggest that up to 32% of individuals with autopsy-confirmed Alzheimer's disease show normal CSF p-tau levels in vivo, but these studies are sparse and had small sample sizes. Therefore, in three independent autopsy cohorts, we studied whether or not CSF A+T- excluded Alzheimer's disease based on autopsy. We included 215 individuals, for whom ante-mortem CSF collection and autopsy had been performed, from three cohorts: (i) the Amsterdam Dementia Cohort (ADC) [n = 80, 37 (46%) Alzheimer's disease at autopsy, time between CSF collection and death 4.5 ± 2.9 years]; (ii) the Antwerp Dementia Cohort (DEM) [n = 92, 84 (91%) Alzheimer's disease at autopsy, time CSF collection to death 1.7 ± 2.3 years]; and (iii) the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) [n = 43, 31 (72%) Alzheimer's disease at autopsy, time CSF collection to death 5.1 ± 2.5 years]. Biomarker profiles were based on dichotomized CSF Aβ1-42 and p-tau levels. The accuracy of CSF AT profiles to detect autopsy-confirmed Alzheimer's disease was assessed. Lastly, we investigated whether the concordance of AT profiles with autopsy diagnosis improved when CSF was collected closer to death in 9 (10%) DEM and 30 (70%) ADNI individuals with repeated CSF measurements available. In total, 50-73% of A+T- individuals and 100% of A+T+ individuals had Alzheimer's disease at autopsy. Amyloid status showed the highest accuracy to detect autopsy-confirmed Alzheimer's disease (accuracy, sensitivity and specificity in the ADC: 88%, 92% and 84%; in the DEM: 87%, 94% and 12%; and in the ADNI cohort: 86%, 90% and 75%, respectively). The addition of CSF p-tau did not further improve these estimates. We observed no differences in demographics or degree of Alzheimer's disease neuropathology between A+T- and A+T+ individuals with autopsy-confirmed Alzheimer's disease. All individuals with repeated CSF measurements remained stable in Aβ1-42 status during follow-up. None of the Alzheimer's disease individuals with a normal p-tau status changed to abnormal; however, four (44%) DEM individuals and two (7%) ADNI individuals changed from abnormal to normal p-tau status over time, and all had Alzheimer's disease at autopsy. In summary, we found that up to 73% of A+T- individuals had Alzheimer's disease at autopsy. This should be taken into account in both research and clinical settings.
- Alzheimer's disease