A study by researchers at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Medical Centre, and the University of Colorado in the US has demonstrated the use of a new test to accurately detect critically ill hospital patients who misuse alcohol.

The simple blood test measures a compound called phosphatidylethanol (PEth), which remains detectable in the blood for up to three weeks.

PEth test is intended to avoid complications such as organ failure, as well as impaired wounds and bone healing associated with alcohol.

Led by Loyola Medicine pulmonologist Majid Afshar, the study included 122 adults at Loyola University Medical Centre and the University of Colorado Denver.

Of the total subjects, 51 were treated in an alcohol detoxification unit and 33 were critically ill patients treated in intensive care and burn units. The remaining 38 were healthy controls.

“A level of more than 400ng/ml was 83% accurate in identifying those who displayed severe alcohol misuse.”

The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test included questions such as the frequency of binge drinking and was used to determine the alcohol misuse in the participants.

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According to the study results, a minimum of 250ng/ml PEth level was found to be 88.7% accurate in detecting patients showing alcohol misuse and a level of more than 400ng/ml was 83% accurate in identifying those who displayed severe alcohol misuse.

The researchers concluded that the PEth test showed good diagnostic accuracy in distinguishing alcohol misuse with useful cut-points to risk-stratify patients.

The team, however, added that further validation is required in a larger group of critically ill patients before clinical and research application of the test.