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The test is capable of identifying the most effective drug to treat a stroke caused by a blood clot and helping prevent another one. Most of the 85,000 victims a year are given the antiplatelet drug clopidogrel to prevent a second attack.
However, up to a third do not benefit from this treatment and so have a higher risk of further strokes.
This is because clopidogrel has to be metabolised by the liver to work and some patients lack the particular enzyme that activates the drug.
Until now doctors had no way of identifying these patients.
Genetic tests can show if someone is a “non-responder” to clopidogrel. They can then be offered an alternative such as a combination of aspirin and dipyridamole.
A team at NHS Tayside in Scotland is pioneering the work by using gene testing in patients. So far more than 400 people have been given the genetic blood test.
Dr Alex Doney, a stroke specialist at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, is leading the initiative.
He hopes a review by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence will support wider gene testing for patients.
The test carried out by his team can provide a result within days of someone’s blood being taken after a stroke and could benefit around 30,000 people a year.
“This is the start of personalised medicine where we can use readily available information about a patient’s specific genetic make-up to make an increasing number of the medicines they take more effective and safe,” said Dr Doney.
Meanwhile, Genedrive, a diagnostics company based at Manchester University, has developed a test using information from swabbing the inside of a patient’s mouth.
A small desktop machine analyses the sample and produces a result in around three hours. Genedrive hopes to have its product approved by medical regulators by spring.
This test is twice the cost of the one being used in Tayside, but David Budd, CEO of Genedrive, said his technology was not only faster but would reduce the pressure of sending a sample to hard-pressed NHS labs.
He said: “The test can be carried out by a senior nurse and our test has been well received by hospitals keen to acquire our technology once we get approval.”
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