Healthcare: On the Agenda - Blood test could spot liver damage

In a nutshell

A new blood test has been developed that indicates the extent of a patient's liver damage.

- About the test

Researchers from Southampton University have developed a traffic light test that gives a colour-coded warning. Green means damage is unlikely, amber means there is a 50:50 chance the liver is damaged, and red means the liver is most probably damaged, potentially irreversibly. The test comprises a routine liver test, already in use, with two others measuring the level of fibrosis by looking for indicators in the blood. Scientists say the test is particularly necessary because liver disease is very hard to diagnose - sometimes remaining undiscovered until the organ starts to fail. The disease is associated with high levels of binge drinking and obesity. The test was given to more than 1,000 patients, and in some cases their progress was monitored over several years to assess accuracy.

- PR strategy

The release was sent out prior to the results being published in the September 2012 issue of the British Journal of General Practice. Dr Nick Sheron, lead author and head of clinical hepatology at the University of Southampton, was widely quoted. The story was also picked up on Twitter.

- Media coverage

The story was covered in the Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, The Scotsman, local and trade press and on BBC online, Sky News online and Press Association.

11,500 Britons a year die from liver disease*

80% of liver disease deaths are caused by alcohol*

*Source: National End of Life Care Intelligence Network.

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