There’s been a lot of news in the past week about potential tests to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, with the latest coming from Quest Diagnostics.
Quest and its unit, Athena Diagnostics, unveiled their test at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting this week in San Diego.
In a press release, Quest said it had developed the first clinical test panel for “aiding the diagnosis of suspected dementia due to treatable forms of cognitive impairment.” A test panel is a predetermined group of medical tests as an aid in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
This test panel is being touted by Quest as the first commercial service from a clinical laboratory to combine several guideline-recommended tests for identifying secondary, treatable causes of dementia as a single blood test and report.
The idea is for the new test to help primary care physicians evaluate a patient with cognitive impairment for potentially reversible causes of dementia, such as vitamin B12 deficiency, hypothyroidism, anemia and diabetes, based on results of biological lab tests, according to Quest’s press release.
“Patients with abnormal results may respond to treatment administered by a primary care physician to reverse the underlying cause of dementia,” Quest said. “Patients with normal results may require evaluation by a neurologist for additional possible causes of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.”
Quest said that the new panel of tests is modeled after the recommendations of the American Academy of Neurology, the American Geriatrics Association, a National Institutes of Health Consensus Panel and the European Federation of Neurological Societies.
“The evaluation of suspected dementia is a significant medical challenge because many different conditions, from low TSH levels to diabetes, can cause cognitive impairment,” said Dr. Joseph Higgins, medical director for Quest Diagnostics Neurology and Athena Diagnostics.
“Our new test panel provides a standard laboratory evaluation to rule out confounders of memory or reversible causes of memory loss,” he said. “Test results are useful in excluding co-morbidities and revealing potential risk factors, origin of confusional states and, sometimes, in identifying the primary cause of dementia.”
Athena Diagnostics creates dementia diagnostics primarily for neurologists, with including 11 testing services, including cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarker analysis, to aid the detection of frontotemporal dementia and other forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Quest acquired Athena Diagnostics in April 2011 in order to add neurology diagnostic information services to its business, although Athena continues to operate largely as an independent business and brand.