A rapid blood test that detects heart failure at an early stage has been developed by scientists in Ireland.
The new test is far more accurate than the current check and could help hundreds of thousands of people. Experts are collecting samples from patients across Ireland, the UK, France, Greece and the US to confirm their findings.
At the moment, doctors measure levels of a protein called B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) in the blood through a standard test.
Increased levels of this protein indicate a risk of heart failure.
However, factors such as obesity, advancing age and some medications also push up levels of BNP, meaning the test is not totally reliable.
Now experts at Queen’s University Belfast have now got round this problem by measuring BNP together with other key proteins in the blood.
Their study identified 25 proteins found in the blood of heart failure patients.
Further tests on 400 blood samples, taken from patients both with and without heart failure, revealed the 25 proteins plus BNP levels provided a significantly more accurate diagnosis of heart failure.
The test also picks up signs of heart failure before patients suffer serious clinical symptoms, thereby preventing long-term damage to their heart.
Dr Claire Tonry, research fellow at Queen’s, said: “There’s an urgent need to develop tests that can diagnose heart failure at an earlier stage and with greater accuracy in order to improve outcomes for patients with the disease.
“It’s difficult to measure multiple biomarkers in blood in a single test but, through our method, we were able to quickly measure multiple proteins from a small amount of blood that’s routinely collected by clinicians for measurement of BNP.
“The results from the test are promising and we’re now carrying out further research to see if this will be a clinically useful tool for diagnosis of heart failure.”
The findings were published at the British Cardiovascular Society Conference in Manchester.
Approximately 10,000 people die each year from cardiovascular disease in Ireland.
It is the most common cause of death in the State, accounting for 36pc of all fatalities. It includes coronary heart disease as well as stroke.