Tuesday, November 16, 2010

British, Australian researchers claim to have quick test in middle age for future risk of Alzheimer's; does it do any good?

An British online newspaper, The Mail, in a story by Fiona MacRae, reports on research in Britain on a reaction time test on people in their 40s which corresponds to findings of small amounts of plaque in turn related to the plaque found in autopsies of people who have died of Alzheimer’s Disease. The link is here. The British story predicts that routine screening could be available in two years and be regarded as like a blood pressure test. In the United States especially, there would be fear that insurance companies would use the test for discrimination, particularly if the GOP rolls back Obama’s health care reform to protect people with pre-existing conditions (which is not yet all that effective). People with the lesions performed inconsistently on the strobe-light-based reaction time test, whereas people with no lesions performed the same all the time (whether slow or fast). The news story headline called it an “Instant Test” and spoke of “Routine Screening”, somewhat callously. I recall this sort of talk with HIV tests twenty years ago.

Screening would make sense only if medications were available to prevent the disease from developing eventually, which is going to become necessary anyway to forestall a massive eldercare crisis, in the entire developed world. Some comments on the story reflected that sentiment.

People with a family history of Huntington’s already face a similar dilemma (as in the WB show “Everwood”), as a genetic test can predict whether someone will develop the disease in middle age.

AOL (Nov. 16) had a similar story by Deborah Huso that called it a “30 second test” and read “Future risk could be determined in your 40s”, link here. Some of the research has been conducted in Australia, too.

No comments: