Scientists at National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US are developing a new rapid test for the detection of Parkinson’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies.

The NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) devised the test by modifying the Real-Time Quaking-Induced Conversion (RT-QuIC) assay used for the early diagnosis of prion diseases, which are a group of neurodegenerative disorders caused by transmissible pathogens.

The new test is designed to analyse the cerebral spinal fluid samples for Lewy bodies that are formed in the brain due to abnormal clumping of a protein called alpha-synuclein.

Both Parkinson’s and dementia with Lewy bodies are similar to prion diseases, but are more common. Early and precise detection of these diseases is expected to aid in the development of therapies prior to disease progression when they are difficult to identify or treat.

“Findings indicated that the test eliminated all 31 controls and correctly detected Parkinson’s and dementia with Lewy bodies with 93% accuracy.”

During the study, scientists examined 60 cerebral spinal fluid samples, including 12 from Parkinson’s patients, 17 from those having dementia with Lewy bodies, and 31 controls, which included 16 with Alzheimer’s disease.

Findings indicated that the test eliminated all 31 controls and correctly detected Parkinson’s and dementia with Lewy bodies with 93% accuracy.

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The results from the new test are said to be available within two days, compared with other related assays that take up to 13 days.

The NIAID plans to continue using the RT-QuIC assay for the detection of other neurological diseases with better accuracy from minimally invasive samples such as blood, skin, and nasal brushings.