A blood test that can help prevent hit victims from having another attack is now offered on NHS in a move experts say will save lives.
The test looks at genetic clues that show whether patients are not responding to standard care – allowing doctors to switch them to more effective drugs.
Experts say around 25,000 Britons fall into this category and it has so far been impossible to identify them.
It comes three months after The Mail on Sunday published details of a major report calling for the widespread use of genetic testing, which experts say could prevent tens of thousands of strokes and heart attacks every year.
A blood test that can help protect stroke victims from another attack is now being offered by the NHS, a move experts say will save lives. (file image)
dr Alex Doney, stroke specialist at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, the first UK NHS unit to offer the test, says: “Genetic testing for stroke patients will save lives.
“For years we have been treating stroke patients according to the unitary principle, ie people with completely different genetic conditions receive exactly the same dose of the same drug. However, we know that for many patients, the current drugs are no better than taking a placebo.’
While the test is being used in 33 NHS hospitals in Scotland, the UK’s health regulator, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), is reviewing it for wider use.
There are approximately 1.3 million stroke survivors in the UK. The attacks – the most common cause of disability – occur when there are problems with the blood supply to the brain.
There are two kinds. The most common is ischemic stroke, in which the blood supply is cut off due to a blood clot. These account for about nine out of ten strokes.
It comes three months after The Mail on Sunday published details of a major report calling for the widespread use of genetic testing, which experts say could prevent tens of thousands of strokes and heart attacks every year. (picture provided by the model)
The other is a hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when the brain bleeds because a weakened blood vessel supplying the organ bursts.
This can happen for a number of reasons, including head injuries, abnormalities in the blood vessels, and bleeding disorders.
Most sufferers need to take blood-thinning medication every day to prevent another stroke. The most common drug used in ischemic strokes is clopidogrel, which prevents small blood cells called platelets from sticking together, dramatically reducing the risk of blood clots.
But clopidogrel doesn’t work in about a quarter of people because they lack enzymes in the liver that are needed to process it. Those in this group lack a gene called CYP219, which contains instructions for making the crucial enzymes.
Now NHS patients in Tayside are being given a blood test to detect this genetic mutation.
It costs £22 per patient and is carried out in minutes, just after the patient arrives at the hospital and clots have been identified. The samples are analyzed in a lab and the results come back within a week. Patients with the genetic mutation are offered alternative blood-thinning medications, such as dipyridamole, that are just as effective.
Tailoring drugs to a patient’s genetic profile is medically known as pharmacogenomics, and experts say it has the potential to make a big difference in many areas of medicine.
dr Doney says, “This is the first step towards a much broader application of this type of precision medicine. The technology is now so advanced and so cheap to use that the issue is no longer whether we should use genetic testing to improve healthcare, but how we do it.”
Ronald Chimiak, 68, from Dundee, was one of the first British patients to have the DNA test days after suffering a stroke in May. It left the grandfather of three with no movement in his left arm and with slurred speech and a drooping left side to his face. He says: “I know a few people who have had strokes and have not been the same afterward. I was worried about going the same way.’
At the hospital, the part-time church volunteer underwent a DNA test which revealed he would not respond to clopidogrel. So he was put on another antiplatelet drug called ticagrelor and is now on the road to recovery.
He says: “I can move my arm normally again, my speech has returned and the drooping in my face has disappeared. If you looked at me you would never have guessed I was having a stroke.”
Weird Science: ‘Toxic Lady’ Made Hospital Staff Sick
Medics at a California hospital began fainting, choking and experiencing muscle spasms after treating a patient – who became known as “the toxic lady”.
Gloria Ramirez died of cervical cancer, but not before 28 employees fell ill.
An investigation revealed that she had self-medicated with dimethyl sulfoxide, a solvent used in pain creams.
It was believed that the solvent reacted with oxygen and the electroshock treatment given to Ramirez, creating a toxic gas called dimethyl sulfate, and that staff inhaled the gas she expelled, causing her troubling symptoms.
Medics at a California hospital began fainting, choking and experiencing muscle spasms after treating a patient – who became known as “the toxic lady”. Gloria Ramirez (above) died of cervical cancer, but not before 28 employees fell ill
your amazing body
After a traumatic event like a shooting or a car accident, what keeps most of us from falling into emotional turmoil and moving on with normal life?
Scientists at the University of Exeter discovered in mice that receptors in the amygdala, the part of the brain that detects potential threats, are reprogrammed after trauma to keep us from expecting the worst of future experiences.
This process is believed to be disrupted in a small number of people – and they are likely to develop trauma-related conditions such as phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder.