Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Medicine Biotech Science

New Blood Test Can Detect Alzheimers 102

Posted by timothy
from the so-you-can-remain-nerdy dept.
kkleiner writes "Samantha Burnham and her colleagues from the Australian national research organization CSIRO caused quite a buzz at the latest Alzheimer's Association International Conference when they announced that a blood test was effective at detecting Alzheimer's in patients. The screen works by measuring the blood levels of nine different proteins or hormones. Routine blood tests could lead to earlier diagnoses and prove invaluable in efforts to treat the disease early and eventually find a cure."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

New Blood Test Can Detect Alzheimers

Comments Filter:
  • Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 24, 2011 @09:40AM (#36862614)

    Why not have a voluntary blood test for everyone in the country, once a year. Use the blood to screen for every known disease. If done on a massive scale it could save hundreds of billions of dollars a year just by catching various terminal illnesses in their early stages.

    This would probably work better in a country with socialised medicine, rather than one where people are afraid of their health insurers finding out about pre-existing conditions.

    • Alzheimers can be 20 years in your body before it causes problems. There is no effective treatment. Forcing people to take this test early would simply mean that otherwise healthy people have 20 years of their lives ruined waiting for Alzheimers before the disease itself starts to affect them.

      Really its like you didn't read the article :p

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Erm ..... there's lots of potential treatments. Dopamine reuptake inhibitors, for example. Like nicotine. I've spent a fair chunk of my life around old people in their 70s and 80s, and the ones that had smoked all their lives had WAY better mental functions than those who had abstained. Of course, a good chunk of the smokers were already dead from lung cancer, which adds some bias to the sample.

        • by g253 (855070)
          electronic cigarettes FTW :)
        • by RockDoctor (15477)

          Erm ..... there's lots of potential treatments.

          And demonstrated treatments (usual criteria : safe + effective) ?

      • Unless there's something they could be doing for that 20 years to help stay off the disease.

        I certainly see your point, but there are clinical suggestions that some (and it is only some) patients benefit from certain mental exercises and diets.
      • by BitterOak (537666)

        Alzheimers can be 20 years in your body before it causes problems. There is no effective treatment. Forcing people to take this test early would simply mean that otherwise healthy people have 20 years of their lives ruined waiting for Alzheimers before the disease itself starts to affect them.

        Really its like you didn't read the article :p

        But given the type of care that Alzheimers patients require, wouldn't it make sense to spend those 20 years making arrangements and saving money for that care? Alzheimers can put an extreme burden (financial as well as emotional) on family members, so it seems to me irresponsible and selfish to simply bury your head in the sand and insist on not being told that you have this incredibly burdensome disease.

      • by icebike (68054)

        Alzheimers can be 20 years in your body before it causes problems. There is no effective treatment. Forcing people to take this test early would simply mean that otherwise healthy people have 20 years of their lives ruined waiting for Alzheimers before the disease itself starts to affect them.

        Really its like you didn't read the article :p

        There may or may not be a cure today. But there are certainly things you can do [nwitimes.com] in 20 years by way of prevention and avoidance.

        Key "prevent alzheimer's" into google new some day.

        Even if only 1 in 10 of these things actually worked, 20 years is a long lead time. If you can stall manifestation off a few years who knows what might come from research over that period.

    • You're assuming that on average, medical treatment does more good, than harm? Not sure that's true.

      • Not necessarily--maybe you only get treatment where there's more good than harm. Problem is we don't have good statistics on that because most people lie about it.

        • Changing the subject, the oxford comma debate [telegraph.co.uk] is raging across the interwebs:

          The Oxford comma is entering that zombie half-life where all dying grammatical rules survive for a while – appreciated only by the prissy and the fussy. It’s better to kill off the poor, awkward thing, rather than let it linger on, unhappily, between the covers of books published by Oxford University Press.

          • by dhasenan (758719)

            This isn't an oxford comma; the oxford comma separates the penultimate member of a list of at least three elements from the corresponding "and".

            No, this is a community college comma, slinking in where it's unwanted out of a shameful, uncertain desire to appease prescriptivists without the requisite knowledge.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Why not have a voluntary blood test for everyone in the country, once a year. Use the blood to screen for every known disease. If done on a massive scale it could save hundreds of billions of dollars a year just by catching various terminal illnesses in their early stages.

      This would probably work better in a country with ...

      ... euthanasia, otherwise they'll just run up higher bills before croaking. So if my relative made the hospital $25K/month for liver cancer treatment, and they diagnosed him a month before he died, they made $25K. If somehow diagnosed 10 months before death, they could have made $25K/month for ten months, earning a quarter mil of revenue for the hospital, at a cost of losing nine months of "normal life" for the patient. Hmm more money for the medical industrial complex, lowered quality of life for the pa

      • I'm scared to get tested, because if I do have it, I may never get any form of medical care again

        I'm going to assume you meant "health insurance" rather than "medical care" here. Glaucoma isn't going to get you rejected, especially if it's under control, but you also have another option if you want to be paranoid: pay cash and use a fake name when you get tested. If positive, stress that you are paying cash for your meds and then use a fake name at the pharmacy.

        • I'd suggest using the name McLovin. It always fools them.

        • by g253 (855070)
          Or, if that's possible for him, he could move to one of the many available more civilised countries where people live rather happily in the knowledge that if they should get ill or injured, they will be treated regardless of their financial situation.
          It is always puzzling, even shocking, to me as a European to read about people thinking of disease or injury in terms of cost. There is of course a cost, but why should it be borne by the citizen? Everyone pays for police, so that everyone can benefit from th
          • why should it be borne by the citizen?

            Because he receives the benefit. Police are like national defense: their benefit is largely to society as a whole, not to specific individuals. I can't tell you which police officer prevents my house from being robbed at night, because there is no one police officer that does so. It's the presence of a policing system that prevents that. By contrast, someone who receives health care is simply receiving a clearly defined benefit like any other welfare program. Countries may choose to provide that welfare be

            • by g253 (855070)
              Thanks a lot for your very informative reply - I would argue that if I should need medical assistance I can go to any random doctor (and will be taken to the nearest hospital in case of emergency), and that society as a whole benefits from the protection of people's health just as it does from the protection of their rights, property, physical integrity etc., so I'm not sure I agree with your distinction - but I now have a much better understanding of how and why the US healthcare system is the way it is.
              • I'm happy to help; our system is poorly understood even within this country. I'd like to address one more thing:

                if I should need medical assistance I can go to any random doctor (and will be taken to the nearest hospital in case of emergency)

                A doctor's office may choose to treat you on a cash basis (or not), but the emergency department does not have that choice. They must treat you for any acute issues, although this does nothing to handle chronic problems. The law is called EMTALA [wikipedia.org], and violations of it are severely punished. They can and will bill you for the services, of course, but in general the situation is much less dire than i

                • by Arterion (941661)

                  I am curious how many people who are young and healthy that can afford health insurance actually elect not to purchase it. I think if they can afford it, they probably have a reasonably good job, and most of those provide health care. I really don't see this segment of the population that is supposedly "abusing" the system, as it were. I'm young and more or less healthy, and the only time I've been able to afford health insurance, it was being provided to me by my employer. Of course, I've since been laid o

                  • I can't speak for others, but when I was in medical school I paid about $150/mo for health insurance - this was during the early 2000s. My in-laws have a high deductible coverage (basically a traditional major medical) that covers the two of them for a little over $400/mo, and they're in their late 50s. He's a salesman working purely on commission, so it's not through an employer. $200 a month, per person, is pretty affordable for all but the poorest. If you don't have a job, of course, everything gets hard
            • by vegiVamp (518171)

              > Over 80% of Americans with insurance are happy with it

              Interesting wording. Now, how many Americans *have* insurance?

              • The vast majority have some form of coverage. This [about.com] is the first Google hit and says 85%. Of the 46 million who didn't, 10 million were not citizens, 14 million were eligible for coverage under Medicaid or SCHIP but had not actually applied, and over 14 million made more than $50k/yr (and so could presumably afford coverage). Those numbers come from some Census data and a Blue Cross study, and there may be some overlap among groups, but they should give you some idea of the general numbers. In short - about
      • Re:Good. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mickwd (196449) on Sunday July 24, 2011 @12:35PM (#36863650)

        "I'm scared to get tested, because if I do have it, I may never get any form of medical care again, and what if I break my leg in a car accident 3 years from now? I don't want to go blind in 3 decades, but I don't want to be crippled and/or live under a freeway overpass in 3 years without any medical care, so its quite a decision to make..."

        Then if you ever have the chance, maybe you should move to a first-world country - you know, the kind with enough money, and a society as a whole that cares enough about everyone in it and decides everyone should have access to free healthcare, paid for by general taxation.

        • a first-world country - you know, the kind with enough money, and a society as a whole that cares enough about everyone in it and decides everyone should have access to free healthcare, paid for by general taxation.

          You don't get to redefine words to meet your political preferences. The phrase 'socialist democracy' is already available and apt to describe the type of place you like to live. Some places value freedom more than safety and that's their business to decide. The economic fate of each will be

      • by Dahamma (304068)

        So if my relative made the hospital $25K/month for liver cancer treatment, and they diagnosed him a month before he died, they made $25K. If somehow diagnosed 10 months before death, they could have made $25K/month for ten months, earning a quarter mil of revenue for the hospital, at a cost of losing nine months of "normal life" for the patient. Hmm more money for the medical industrial complex, lowered quality of life for the patient, according to the hospital management, whats not to love?

        And if he were d

    • Why not have a voluntary blood test for everyone in the country, once a year. Use the blood to screen for every known disease. If done on a massive scale it could save hundreds of billions of dollars a year just by catching various terminal illnesses in their early stages.

      This would probably work better in a country with socialised medicine, rather than one where people are afraid of their health insurers finding out about pre-existing conditions.

      From a lecture by Dr. Ned Calonge, the chairman of the United States Preventive Services Task Force, “There are five things that can happen as a result of screening tests, and four of them are bad.” The problem with screening tests is that they lead to other tests / outcomes that might not help - in fact they might hurt. It can lead to falsely positive or falsely negative tests. The cure might be worse than the disease.

      Careful what you ask for, you just might get it.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        If everyone was tested, there would be more attention paid to deal correctly with the outcomes of testing.

        • by arth1 (260657)

          If everyone was tested, there would be more attention paid to deal correctly with the outcomes of testing.

          That depends on your definition of "correctly". Hospitals and the doctors they own will "correctly" use this to augment their income. Insurance companies will "correctly" use this to decrease their expenditure.
          In both cases, to maximize the profit for the shareholders - any improvement for the people being actually tested will at most be incidental.

          And, why should I have to (a) pay to be tested, and (b) possibly be refused health and/or life insurance in the future? What does it buy me? I'm not willing

          • by Anonymous Coward

            If tens or hundreds of millions of people were being tested, it wouldn't cost a small fortune per person thanks to economies of scale. Pretend you live in a country with socialised medicine, where health insurance concerns don't come into play. It's only a bad idea from a US-centric perspective.

            Why not give up on US education, that would save even more money. After all, YOU don't benefit from it.

            It's like the whole population of the USA read the wikipedia article on "The tragedy of the commons", and thought

          • by g253 (855070)
            In most developed countries (not in the U.S.A.) what it buys you is early treatment, hopefully leading to a longer lifespan. If however I guess correctly that you have the misfortune to live in a country where being ill basically deprives you of the opportunity to get treated, and where if you wish to survive you better have amassed enough wealth to pay for it, well... that's tough :-/
    • Why not have a voluntary blood test for everyone in the country, once a year. Use the blood to screen for every known disease. If done on a massive scale it could save hundreds of billions of dollars a year just by catching various terminal illnesses in their early stages.

      Because if insurance companies knew for a fact you were going to get sick with something that costs a lot of money to treat, they wouldn't insure you.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not a completely horrible idea but the devil is in the details and it's not just about politics but also economics and even the effectiveness of such an approach. The economics front is pretty easy to see. To just randomly make up some numbers, if a test costs $1000 and only 0.00001% of a 300M person population (i.e. 3000) suffers from said disease that money ($300B) could be better spent elsewhere like research on a disease that effects 100,000 people.

      As far as efficacy your assumption is early detection

    • Because the cheapest cure for any disease is death.
    • Re:Good. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by antifoidulus (807088) on Sunday July 24, 2011 @01:53PM (#36864154) Homepage Journal
      It wouldn't work well in a nation with socialized medicine either, namely because it would be a massive waste of resources. There is a reason doctors in both countries with and without public health insurance never recommend their patients get tests for diseases they aren't at any significant risk for: it's incredibly wasteful and diverts medical experts and equipment from doing much more useful work.

      For example, take breast cancer. While it's possible that men can get breast cancer, it's exceedingly rare. Let's assume that, if we can do it at scale, a mammogram for males costs 20 pounds. In the UK there are about 45,000 cases of breast cancer a year, about 1% of which are males, lets round up to 500 cases a year. There are about 25 million adult males in the United Kingdom, if we gave them a single mammogram per year at our above(overly optimistic), that would give us 500 million pounds per year to detect 500 cases(many of which may have been detected anyway). So we have a million pounds per case of breast cancer in males. Does that sound even remotely efficient? Treating breast cancer doesn't come anywhere near a million pounds, and that money can be spent much more constructively.

      There are a large number of medical statisticians out there whose sole purpose is to determine which groups are at risk for which diseases. Doing wide scale testing of diseases for which very few people are at risk(and those groups can usually be identified) is just plain wasteful.
      • by dhasenan (758719)

        Also think of false positive rates. If that test were pretty accurate and had only a 1% false positive rate, you'd suddenly be telling a quarter million men that they have breast cancer, when only 500 of them do. Your odds of having breast cancer given that you tested positive would then be one in five hundred.

        The amount of wasted effort due to overmedication in this case would be enormous -- even assuming these treatments have no side effects. Even the more detailed and accurate tests might have a chance o

      • by Kjella (173770)

        True, but to get a mammogram you have to well, get a mammogram. Very few doctors even have a mammography machine, normally you'd have to go to a smaller clinic and it'd be completely new expense all the way. Blood samples on the other hand are taken almost all the time in pretty much every doctor's office. Even if you're a relatively healthy young individual they tend to take blood samples from time to time and in the age you're likely to get Alzheimers, quite a bit more often. So if the whole blood taking

        • Doing the assays while not expensive, is not cheap either. This returns me to my original point, testing people for diseases they are not at risk for is wasteful, not to mention the issues with false positives as another poster has mentioned.
    • Why not have a voluntary blood test for everyone in the country, once a year. Use the blood to screen for every known disease. If done on a massive scale it could ...

      ... bankrupt any government. I just added the cost of all the blood exams of the first price list found on the net and reached over 5000$. Of course that's not even close to be comprehensive, plus I wonder how much blood you'd need. Good try. Next.

  • ... is you keep having to take it.

    • On the plus side, you can hide your own Easter eggs.

    • by vlm (69642)

      ... is you keep having to take it.

      ... every time you sign up with a new for profit health insurance company ...

      • ... every time you sign up with a new for profit health insurance company ...

        I know, insurance rates based on actuarial risk - what is the world coming to?

    • The third time you show up for the same test is a positive for Alzheimers.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Sunday July 24, 2011 @09:59AM (#36862746) Journal
    The whole thing depends on the number of false positives. At times tests like these are heavily manipulated by the vested interests to mandate testing for the whole populations. Mainly to make money on the testing.

    We accept as normal part of aging that body will perform less efficiently than when it was young. Similarly some loss of function in brain is also part of normal aging. As long as both the body and the brain dies more or less same time, it should be accepted as "normal". Advances in medication is keeping the body alive far longer than in the past. So all these brain diseases are getting prominent attention.

    It is one thing to talk like this clinically in the abstract sense. But when yourself or a loved one is facing this issue rationality goes out of the window. I wish we would have the guts to treat only the early onset Alzhieimer's alone and let nature takes its course. Also should permit people to write living wills saying, "After my brain is dead, do not keep my body alive. Harvest it for organs and give it to people with functioning brains."

    • by vlm (69642)

      The whole thing depends on the number of false positives.

      From reading the fine article, about 1/5 false pos and about 1/5 false neg.

      The spinal fluid test is supposed to be 100% effective although obviously dangerous. Assuming you're not an undiagnosed hemophiliac the blood test should be perfectly safe and make a decent pre-screener for the spinal test.

      I'm not sure what the point is; A blood flow test was quite handy for my grandmother who found a 90% artery blockage and had surgery and some lifestyle and medication changes, which overall both dramatically leng

      • by Culture20 (968837)
        If we can increase the number of pre-alzheimers sufferors who know their condition and can take part in research while they're just starting down the path, causes and preventative measures might be found sooner.
      • by sjames (1099) on Sunday July 24, 2011 @01:08PM (#36863868) Homepage

        Unfortunately, it will not make a good screening test. Screening tests must necessarily have a vanishingly small false negative rate even at the cost of a very high false positive rate.

        But your other point is spot on. Unless we can actually DO something useful about Alzheimers, there's no point in mass testing. The test is useful in cases where the patient is symptomatic because it can help distinguish between conditions that can be treated effectively and one that can't.

  • One of those with a "click" if you really want to know directive. They claim the genetic link is quite strong and APOE gene variants can be a predictor.

  • I want to make informed choices about preventive treatments and eventually self-termination. For that, I need to know.

  • I propose that the First ones in the US to be tested are the Congressmen and Senators and all elected and appointed officials of the Federal and State Governments! The way they have been acting for a while has aroused my suspicions that they are not all in their right minds!!!
    • by TheLink (130905)
      Seems like a lot of them keep getting reelected/reappointed.

      So the voters etc think they're the best candidates for the job.
    • I propose that they be subject to drug tests, like all other Federal employees.
  • Thankfully you'll forget about that.

  • Alzheimer's Disease runs in my family ... so a low-cost test would be great. I'd at least like to have the opportunity to prepare for my geriatric future if I'm affected.
  • Latest issue of Nature focuses on Alzheimers.

    It's been very difficult to make progress. However it's possible to slow it's progress and early detection is critical to that effort.

    Hope this is for real and not just an advertisemnt to attract resarch dollars.

  • by Paracelcus (151056) on Sunday July 24, 2011 @01:45PM (#36864120) Journal

    If you fail (have the risk factor) you WILL be denied health/life insurance.
    At least at rates payable by a non multimillionaire!

  • Both my father and his father died at the end of a long fight with Alzheimer's, and it's likely that I and my brother have the genetic markers that have been tied to the disease (or whatever it is). We have had long discussions about taking the various "find out if you have Alzheimer's genes" for a long time, and the two bottom lines are: (1) there is nothing medical science can do for you if you do have the genetic markers other than use you for a lab rat, and (2) this sets you up for potentially-serious
  • 1) academic work on some hideously complex test (I work in this field, nine proteins is almost unprecedented for a mass screen) is
    NOT
    a test. It is like some academic at IBM or intel announcing they have 10x faster memory in the lab; how many of those get to production ?
    maybe, maybe, in 2 years, this will be a test
    2) and, the data show that it doesn't work
    accordng to the article, theytested their test on people whoose status was already known.
    do I really have to remind slashdotters about grade school
  • They say the percentage for error is about 15% both ways, for false positives and false negatives.....so if you are told you don't have it, you still might, if you are told you do, you might not...the whole reason for this was to avoid expensive tests by doctors to detect the disease, however, i would say that if someone shows signs and is tested positive, it is quite probable that they have it, but the reverse is still not good enough, if they are tested negative and show no signs, but have it, will deteri

"Ahead warp factor 1" - Captain Kirk

Working...