Simple blood test could predict which lung patients will become severely ill
International researchers say they’ve made a “significant step” towards a simple blood test for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) that could predict whether a patient’s health is about to get far worse.
A biomarker in the blood shows promise in identifying early damage to the lung and whether someone’s lung health will decline over time, or stay stable.
Such a test would allow earlier diagnosis and treatment of the incurable lung disease that is likened to lungs turning to stone and will save lives.
Experts say the research, published in the prestigious European Respiratory Journal is a “health breakthrough” in the management of lung scarring.
IPF is a lung condition that scars your lungs and reduces the efficiency of your breathing.
It affects more than three million people worldwide. The disease primarily affects patients over the age of 50 and affects more men than women, although there has been an increase of IPF cases in women more recently.
The cause is unknown but risk factors include a family history of the disease, abnormal acid reflux, environmental exposures, chronic viral infections, lung injury and smoking.
Currently, although a blood test can show if someone has the incurable disease, it can’t predict whether a patient has a progressive form of the disease or not.
“The progression of IPF in every patient is variable and unpredictable. Some patients will remain stable, whereas others unfortunately, will rapidly deteriorate,” Associate Professor Yuben Moodley from the Institute for Respiratory Health said.
He explained: “This, for the first time could enable us to design tests which can predict who is at highest risk of rapidly progressing with IPF. Doctors could then come up with a treatment plan that might stop this from occurring in the first place and extend their lives.
“We could also possibly avoid prescribing severe treatments to patients whose disease is fairly stable.”
The collaborative global research was undertaken with the University of Western Australia and with researchers in the UK.