| NEW YORK
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A simple saliva test may one
day be used in ambulances, restaurants, neighborhood drug
stores, or other places in the community to quickly tell if a
person is having a heart attack.
"Proteins found in the saliva have the ability to rapidly
classify potential heart attacks," Dr. John T. McDevitt, a
biochemist at the University of Texas at Austin, told Reuters
McDevitt and colleagues developed a nano-bio-chip sensor
that is biochemically programmed to detect sets of proteins in
saliva capable of determining whether or not a person is
currently having a heart attack or is at high risk of having a
heart attack in the near future.
With the saliva heart attack diagnostic test, a person
spits into a tube and the saliva is then transferred to credit
card-sized lab card that holds the nano-bio-chip containing a
standard battery of cardiac biomarkers. The loaded card is
inserted like an ATM card into an analyzer that determines the
patient's heart status in as little as 15 minutes.
In a study involving 56 people who had a heart attack and
59 healthy "controls" who did not, "we found that our test
could distinguish between heart attack patients and controls
with about the same diagnostic accuracy" as that of standard
blood tests, McDevitt noted in an interview with Reuters
Many heart attack patients, especially women, experience
nonspecific symptoms, or have normal EKG readings, making
timely diagnosis difficult, McDevitt explained.
"In our small trial, we had about one third of the patients
with these...silent heart attacks on EKG." These patients need
to go the emergency department and have their blood drawn and
tested for enzymes that are indicative of a heart attack,
"which could take an hour to an hour and a half."
The saliva test could be used in conjunction with the EKG
and "aid in rapidly diagnosing heart attacks that are silent on
EKG," McDevitt said, adding that larger and more refined
studies are planned.