(CTN News) – The NHS is to start testing simple blood tests for dementia that could revolutionize detection within five years.
In the UK, you need mental ability tests, brain scans or painful lumbar punctures to get a formal diagnosis.
Getting an appointment and the results can take up to four years, charities say. A third of people with dementia in England don’t get a formal diagnosis.
Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Alzheimer’s Society are backing a £5m project that will trial simple blood tests in the NHS to speed up diagnosis and reach more people. The goal is to be able to detect the disease with just a drop of blood.
The equivalent of £693 gets you a blood test to see if you have dementia 10 years before symptoms appear in the US or Hong Kong.
Those behind the UK initiative say more work needs to be done to make sure tests measure the right biomarkers and don’t misdiagnose people.
900,000 people in the UK have dementia. The number is predicted to rise to 1.4 million by 2040.
With funding from the People’s Postcode Lottery, the team is working with the National Institute for Health and Care Research to make dementia blood tests on the NHS reliable.
Researchers are looking for specific proteins that happen before dementia symptoms appear, among other tests.
There’s a blood test for dementia being developed by Eli Lilly and Roche.
Since donanemab and lecanemab slowed cognitive decline, blood tests are becoming more important for diagnosing Alzheimer’s.
According to Fiona Carragher, the Alzheimer’s Society’s director of research and influencing, some people wait up to four years for a diagnosis, and hundreds of thousands go undiagnosed.
It’s estimated that nearly four in ten people in the UK with dementia don’t have a diagnosis. “We also know that people who do have a diagnosis usually have to wait months, sometimes years, for it. Families are stuck in limbo, trying to manage symptoms and plan for the future without the vital support and care a diagnosis can provide.
New Alzheimer’s drugs are just around the corner, but without a diagnosis, people won’t be able to get them.
The NHS needs to develop a blood test within five years so as many people as possible can access the groundbreaking treatments.
“This could revolutionize dementia diagnosis and accelerate the introduction of blood tests in UK healthcare systems – a truly game-changing victory in the fight against dementia,” Carragher said.
Alzheimer’s Research UK’s executive director of research and partnerships, Susan Kohlhaas, says: “We expect more people to seek diagnosis, and they’re coming forward at younger ages and with fewer obvious symptoms.” To compare with the gold standard, our tests need to be better, more scalable, and more accurate.
A lot of investment is needed to make sure the NHS has the right tools to identify dementia much earlier than it can now. The answer is low-cost tests that are non-invasive and easier to administer than gold-standard methods. These tests need to be moved out of the lab and tested in real-world settings like the NHS.”