Could a blood test diagnose myocarditis?
Posted on the 2nd December 2022
A £50 blood test that diagnoses the potentially deadly heart muscle inflammation myocarditis could be available within a year.
The team behind the test say it could be used to identify those with myocarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle that can often be fatal – and get them early lifesaving treatment.
Myocarditis usually occurs following a viral infection and, while some people have no symptoms, in others it can cause chest pains, palpitations and shortness of breath.
However, it can be difficult to diagnose as its symptoms are often mistaken for other conditions.
The current gold standard method for diagnosis is a heart biopsy – which is invasive, risky, and can still miss signs of the condition.
The new test is based on research published in the journal Circulation, which showed that T-cells – which are a certain type of white blood cells – express a molecule called cMet in the blood, which is an indicator of myocarditis.
Using funding from the British Heart Foundation, the researchers compared blood samples from several groups of patients, including 34 diagnosed with myocarditis.
Findings showed that patients with myocarditis had significantly increased levels of T cells with cMet on their surface compared to other groups, the researchers said.
The team said its work adds to the evidence that myocarditis is an autoimmune condition.
Tests on mice showed that blocking cMet with a widely available drug reduced the severity of their myocarditis – which the researchers also want to investigate further.
It is estimated that one young person dies suddenly every week in the UK due to previously undiagnosed myocarditis.
The incidence of myocarditis is approximately 1.5 million cases worldwide per year.
It is hoped the new test could become a simple addition to routine blood tests ordered in doctors’ surgeries that could then be viewed in combination with symptoms that will allow GPs to easily determine if patients have myocarditis.