London – European and U.S. researchers have developed a simple blood test that can measure the levels of a bacteria produced by the digestive system which could help in assessing people who are prone to major heart problems.
The test, which costs no more than $48, could predict the risk not only in the short-term, over the first 30 days, but also the risk of death in the longer term and up to seven years.
Researchers in Switzerland and the U.S. have found that people with high levels of a molecule called trimethylamine N-oxide, or TMAO, are at the risk of dying or having a heart attack or a stroke within the following six months of their lives.
TMAO is an amino acid produced by the gut bacteria from components of red meat, eggs and diary.
The study was published by the European Heart Journal where the researchers examined TMAO levels in the blood of 530 patients, aged over 18. The patients arrived at the emergency department of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, USA suffering from chest pains.
The researchers also studied the cases of 1,683 patients who had coronary angiography within five days after being admitted to the hospitals with chest pains.
Professor Thomas Lüscher, Chairman of Cardiology at the University Heart Center, Zurich, Switzerland, who led the study, said: “We found that the Cleveland patients with higher TMAO levels were more likely to experience a major adverse cardiovascular event at 30 days, six months and seven years after their admittance to hospital.”
He added that those patients are at higher risks than patients with other risk factors such as age, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
“When compared with patients with the lowest TMAO levels, those with levels in the top 25% were around six times more likely to die, suffer a heart attack or stroke or require revascularisation at 30 days and six months, and nearly twice as likely to die within seven years,” said Professor Thomas Lüscher.
The study suggests patients could reduce their risk by lowering TMAO levels in two ways: through a change in diet or by designing new drugs that prevent TMAO being produced.