Soroka researchers develop new method to diagnose heart attack

The preliminary research tested the presence of troponin, which is found in the blood heart attack patients, in the patients' saliva.

Virtual image of human heart  (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Virtual image of human heart
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
A team of researchers from the Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba, led by Dr. Roi Westreich, developed a possible method to detect heart attacks among patients by testing their saliva, according to the European Society of Cardiology.
 
The preliminary research tested the presence of a protein called troponin, which is found in the blood heart attack patients, in the patients' saliva. 
The standard medical procedure for diagnosing a heart attack requires a blood test, which takes up to an hour to confirm the presence of troponin, which in addition to patient's complaints about chest pain and abnormal heart activity, can be detected by an electrocardiogram (ECG).  
The new method aims to change that by offering results within ten minutes, simply by spitting into a test tube. 
“Currently troponin testing uses blood samples. In this preliminary study we evaluated the feasibility of a novel method using saliva,"  Westreich explained to the European Society of Cardiology.
The research was conducted among a total of 45 subjects, 32 of whom were confirmed cases of muscle injury (heart attack) and 13 were healthy volunteers. 
Each of the participants was requested to provide a saliva sample. Only half of each sample was tested, and the other half was left untouched. 
The results were promising, as around 84% of the tested samples showed positive sings for the presence of the troponin in comparison to 6% of the untested ones.
The problem that the researchers faced during the initial stages was the absence of testing tools designed to detect troponin in saliva. 
"Since no test has been developed for use on saliva, we had to use commercially available tests intended for whole blood, plasma or serum, and adjust them for saliva examination," said Westreich.

However, there is a long way to go until testing saliva can become the standard for detecting heart attack cases among patients.