Blood test predicts disease within year

A new blood test that predicts if someone will develop Alzheimer's within a year is a significant breakthrough but raises the question over stigma and whether or not people will even want to know, Alzheimer's Manawatu manager Donna Hedley says.

After a decade of research, which was released this week, scientists at Oxford University and King's College London in the United Kingdom believe they have found a set of proteins capable of predicting whether individuals with mild cognitive impairment would develop Alzheimer's disease within a year, with an accuracy of 87 per cent.

Hedley said the discovery was significant but raised the question whether or not people would want to know when there is still no cure for the disease.

"There is a likelihood people won't want to know because of the stigma attached," she said.

"It's difficult when there's still no cure."

Early detection of dementia meant people could have the opportunity to set themselves up to live with the disease, Hedley said.

"I certainly think for people who are at risk it gives them the opportunity to look at what treatment is available at an earlier stage and look at what else they can do to improve their lifestyle.

"People do live long and well with it and diagnosis opens up funding and also support, which is really important."

The test, which could be available within two years, could revolutionise research into finding a cure, Britain's Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said.

Researchers used data from three international studies. Blood samples were taken from 1148 people, 476 of whom had Alzheimer's, 220 with memory problems, and a control group of 452 without any signs of dementia.

Alzheimers New Zealand, a non-profit organisation with 21 branches, said about 50,000 people had dementia in New Zealand. Alzheimer's is one of several hundred types of the disease.

Manawatu Standard