Spit in a tube to diagnose heart attack

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In a new study from Soroka University, researchers showed a saliva test could fast track heart attack diagnosis.

The innovative technique requires patients to spit into a tube and provides results in 10 minutes, compared to at least one hour for the standard blood test.

Heart attacks need an urgent diagnosis, followed by treatment to restore blood flow to blocked arteries.

Diagnosis is based on symptoms (such as chest pain), an electrocardiogram (ECG) and a blood test for cardiac troponin, a protein released into the blood when the heart muscle is injured.

There is a great need for a simple and rapid troponin test for patients with chest pain in the pre-hospital setting. Currently, troponin testing uses blood samples.

In this study, the team evaluated the feasibility of a novel method using saliva.

The purpose of the study was to see if cardiac troponin could be detected in the saliva of patients with a heart muscle injury.

Saliva samples underwent a unique processing procedure to remove highly abundant proteins.

A total of 32 patients with heart muscle injury (i.e. they had a positive cardiac troponin blood test) and 13 healthy volunteers were requested to provide saliva samples by spitting into a collecting tube.

Then, half of each sample was processed, and the other half remained in its natural state.

For patients, the researchers compared the results from the saliva samples (processed and unprocessed) with the blood samples.

There was strong agreement between the blood findings and the processed saliva. Some 84% of the processed saliva samples tested positive for troponin.

Among healthy participants, no cardiac troponin was detected in the processed and unprocessed saliva samples.

The team says this early work shows the presence of cardiac troponin in the saliva of patients with myocardial injury.

Further research is needed to determine how long troponin stays in the saliva after a heart attack. In addition, scientists need to know how many patients would erroneously be diagnosed with heart attack and how many cases would be missed.

This prototype will be tailor-made for processed saliva and is expected to be more accurate than using a blood test on saliva.

It will be calibrated to show positive results when saliva troponin levels are higher than a certain threshold and show a yes/no result like a pregnancy test.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about two simple ways to prevent heart attacks and findings of how to make the healthiest coffee to reduce heart attack risk.

For more information about heart attacks, please see recent studies about for people with high blood pressure, this method may cut heart attack, stroke risk by 50% and results showing that this old drug has a unique role in preventing heart attacks.

The study was presented at the ESC Congress conference. One author of the study is Dr. Roi Westreich.

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