New blood test offers potential for earlier heart failure diagnosis

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have developed a new blood test that offers the potential to provide an earlier and more accurate diagnosis of heart failure than current methods.

At the moment, blood testing for heart failure measures levels of the protein B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) in the blood. Elevated levels of BNP are considered an indicator for heart failure risk, but many factors can influence BNP levels – including medications, age and obesity – which reduces its accuracy and reliability as a diagnostic test.

The new research – led by Dr Chris Watson and Dr Claire Tonry and published at the 2019 British Cardiovascular Society Conference – identified 25 other key proteins in the blood of heart failure patients that could be used in addition to BNP as diagnostic markers of heart failure. The researchers then applied this test to 400 samples of blood from individuals with and without heart failure, with results demonstrating a significant improvement in diagnostic accuracy compared with measurement of BNP alone.

Further samples are now being collected from several centres in the UK, France, Greece and the USA to confirm the benefits of the new testing method.

On the results, Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said:

‘Heart failure still kills thousands of people every year in the UK and its symptoms may be cruel and debilitating. We are seeing a significant increase in people going to hospital with heart failure, as the population ages and more people develop the disease after surviving a heart attack.

‘It is vital that heart failure is diagnosed as soon as possible, given there are treatments to delay its progression and to treat symptoms.

‘It is early days but if new blood tests like this yield earlier and more accurate heart failure diagnosis, people living with heart failure could receive treatment sooner. This will help them to better manage their symptoms so they can live full and active lives for longer.’

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