Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) is a transmissible neurodegenerative prion disease that continues to present a unique problem for medical diagnostics. Uncertainties remain over the prevalence of vCJD in the UK population and its incubation period in individuals of different genotypes. Although the infectious agent that causes vCJD is widely distributed in the peripheral tissues of patients and those carrying the disease, it does not provoke any host immune response that would be amenable to detection. The recent realisation that it can be transmitted by blood transfusion, and that individuals are infectious long before the appearance of symptoms, have increased the need for a blood-screening assay. This paper reviews progress that has been made in the development of potential tests and the protocols that have been devised for their evaluation.