A research team at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland has developed a blood test to detect heart failure at earlier stages.

The new test is designed to measure the B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) protein, as well as other proteins in the blood to enable better diagnosis of heart failure. It will simultaneously measure 25 proteins from blood samples of heart failure patients.

To assess whether the proteins would identify patients with heart failure, the test was then applied to more than 400 blood samples obtained from people with and without the condition.

Based on the study results, the researchers concluded that measurement of the 25 proteins provides a more accurate detection of heart failure compared to BNP alone.

Commonly, clinicians measure levels of the BNP protein in the blood using a standard test. Increased levels of this protein in heart disease patients are considered an indication of heart failure risk.

However, the protein can be elevated because of a variety of heart problems and blood levels can change due to certain medications, obesity and with age. This impacts the accuracy and reliability of BNP testing for the presence or severity of heart failure.

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Currently, the team is collecting samples from multiple hospital sites across the UK, Ireland, France, Greece and the US in order to validate the accuracy of these proteins in diagnosis.

Researchers also aim to gain better insights into the potential benefit of the test for patients.

“There’s an urgent need to develop tests that can diagnose heart failure at an earlier stage and with greater accuracy.”

Queen’s University Belfast research fellow Dr Claire Tonry said: “There’s an urgent need to develop tests that can diagnose heart failure at an earlier stage and with greater accuracy in order to improve outcomes for patients with the disease.

“It’s difficult to measure multiple biomarkers in blood in a single test but, through our method, we were able to quickly measure multiple proteins from a small amount of blood that’s routinely collected by clinicians for measurement of BNP.”

Heart failure is a chronic condition known to affect approximately 920,000 people in the UK.

It is characterised by shortness of breath and feeling of unusual tiredness or weakness. However, some people do not experience symptoms until after the condition has progressed.