New Way to Test for Alzheimer's Disease

Ratio of biochemicals in spinal fluid helps diagnose condition

TUESDAY, Sept. 16, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Determining the ratio of two biochemicals in a person's spinal fluid may help doctors evaluate patients with dementia and diagnose Alzheimer's disease.

That's what Swiss researchers report in the Sept. 15 issue of the Archives of Neurology.

The study found the ratio of the phosphorylated tau protein to beta-amyloid peptide42 was much higher in patients with Alzheimer's and was accurate in distinguishing patients with Alzheimer's from healthy people without the disease and patients with non-Alzheimer's dementias and other neurological disorders.

The researchers examined cerebrospinal fluid from 100 people who had a diagnostic evaluation for dementia and from 31 healthy people who served as controls for the study.

The study notes that diagnosing Alzheimer's and distinguishing it from other dementias relies heavily on a doctor's judgment. Diagnostic accuracy of Alzheimer's is less than 80 percent to 90 percent accurate, particularly in the early stages of the disease. The process of diagnosing the disease can be lengthy and costly.

The authors conclude this method of testing may provide a promising tool for diagnosing Alzheimer's. They write that its usefulness may be further evaluated in clinical settings.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about Alzheimer's disease.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives, news release, Sept. 15, 2003
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