DENVER — The FDA recently approved a blood test that is reported to accurately predict a person’s risk of getting cardiovascular disease. With a spot at the top of the list of the most deadly diseases worldwide, preventative measures to ward against cardiovascular disease could save thousands of lives worldwide every year.
With the increasing development and westernization of low- and middle-income countries, the risk factors of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers have become more prevalent in developing countries. An increase in tobacco usage, the consumption of unhealthy foods and exposure to harmful chemicals and other substances have created an ever-growing problem that has proven challenging to keep up with.
In 2009, 17.3 million people died of cardiovascular disease, and the World Health Organization estimated that of the annual tally of deaths from cardiovascular disease, 80 percent occur in low- and middle-income countries. The emergence of the recent blood test could turn this around.
One of the more challenging aspects of fighting cardiovascular disease is the lack of preventive measures, especially for those who have no family history of cardiovascular disease. The new blood test aims to circumvent this challenge and provide definitive results for anyone.
The test is referred to as the PLAC Test for Lp-PLA2 and is aimed at detecting cardiovascular inflammation, which can result in plaque build up and eventually heart attack or stroke. Lp-PLA2 is a marker in the blood that plays a role in the build up of the aforementioned plaque.
The test is designed to predict risk in people who possess two or more factors that may contribute to cardiovascular disease. This is an important development for those with no history of heart disease, as these cases would otherwise have likely gone unacknowledged.
The new blood test was compared with a test called “CellSearch” which is based on a similar premise. The comparison found that the PLAC Test was able to detect the offending cells with more accuracy than the CellSearch test. The researchers commented on the reason for this, explaining that the new test “used a direct analysis method and was free of bias from an enrichment stage.”
After the testing stages were complete, it was determined that the test was most effective for women, and in particular, black women. The FDA, however, maintains that it is still effective in predicting the risk of cardiovascular disease for anyone with two or more risk factors.
Once the results have been gathered, physicians can proceed with suggesting lifestyle changes that may be contributing to risk factors as well as treatments when possible. From there, the hope is that the number of cases will begin to decrease.
The problem the developing world has is providing the resources and funds to effectively distribute the test. A detriment facing the developing world is the presence of incompetent healthcare facilities, something that would be necessary for the test to be implemented. Additionally, the test has only been discussed in the United States, meaning that the distribution of the test to developing nations is a ways down the road.
The implications for when the test makes it to the developing world are very positive, with possibilities of motivating healthier lifestyles and attacking a disease that can often be prevented.
– Maggie Wagner