Simple test could help NHS diagnose Alzheimer's disease years sooner

A new, easy blood test might help doctors find Alzheimer’s disease much earlier. Experts say this could change the way we spot Alzheimer’s in the UK. 

The blood tests could be e ready for use in the NHS in about five years.

They will make it easier to know if someone has Alzheimer’s because, at present, not many people can get special tests like PET scans. These are only at some NHS places that help with memory problems.

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The new test looks for certain proteins in the blood of people who might have early dementia or are starting to forget things.

Fiona Carragher, who knows a lot about dementia research, said: “Dementia is the UK’s biggest killer, yet a third of people living with dementia don’t have a diagnosis, which means they’re not able to access care and support.”

“At the moment, only two per cent of people with dementia can access the specialised tests needed to demonstrate eligibility for new treatments, leading to unnecessary delays, worry and uncertainty.

“Blood tests are part of the answer to this problem they’re quick, easy to administer and cheaper than current, more complex tests.”

“I’ve spent decades working in research and the NHS and, after years of slow progress, it feels like we’re on the cusp of a new chapter on how we treat dementia in this country.” 

Dr Sheona Scales, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “We’ve seen the enormous potential that blood tests are showing for improving the diagnostic process for people and their loved ones in other disease areas. Now we need to see this same step-change in dementia, which is the greatest health challenge facing the UK.”

“It’s fantastic that, through collaborating with the leading experts in the dementia community, we can look to bring cutting-edge blood tests for diagnosing dementia within the NHS. And this will be key to widening access to groundbreaking new treatments that are on the horizon.”

Jonathan Schott, the top doctor at Alzheimer’s Research UK, is going to lead a study on a hopeful blood marker in tests on 1,100 people all over the UK. His team from University College London (UCL) will look closely at the most hopeful marker for Alzheimer’s disease, called p-tau217, which can show levels of amyloid and tau in the brain.

The study will see if checking p-tau217 in the blood can make it easier to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease in people with early dementia, but also those with mild memory problems that are getting worse. The second study, led by Dr Vanessa Raymont, from Oxford University, will look at new and old blood tests on nearly 4,000 people, testing many types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies.

More than 944,000 people in the UK have dementia, a number expected to go up to more than a million by 2030. 


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