In a major breakthrough which may pave the way for more effective treatment, scientists have developed a blood test that they claim can detect acute kidney disease in people early.

An international team, led by the University of Otago, has developed the cystatin C test, which can detect the often fatal condition of acute kidney disease in critically ill patients.

In their study, the scientists showed that the blood test given to patients detected potentially life-threatening kidney injuries earlier and more reliably than the current screening test.

Lead scientist Professor Zoltan Endre said the findings hold great potential for revolutionising the way patients with kidney injury are treated.

“Eventually practise in intensive care will be changed because of these studies. All over the world they are seeking early indicators of kidney injury. The earlier it is picked up the better the likelihood of survival,” he said.

According to Prof Endre, the incidence of acute kidney injury (AKI) is increasing worldwide.

Their study involved 444 patients who entered the Christchurch or Dunedin intensive care units. Patients’ blood was tested on admission to the units and then for following seven days. The blood was screened for presence of cystatin C.

Analysis showed screening with the new cystatin C test, patients’ potentially life-threatening kidney injuries were detected earlier than by the current screening tool, creatinine, in 66 per cent of the cases.

Professor Endre says the rate of death from AKI has not really improved over the past 50 years so this study provides a real advantage to clinicians.

“The cystatin C test is inexpensive and, after more tests to prove its effectiveness, will no doubt become regularly used in hospitals,” he said.

The findings have been published in the leading international kidney-related publication ‘Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation’ journal.

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