Parkinson's Disease
Celebrating the end of their training session Parkinson's patients and trainers gather for a group cheer during their Rock Steady Boxing class in Costa Mesa, California October 4, 2013. Reuters/Mike Blake

More than 6.3 million people around the world are affected by the deadly degenerative Parkinson’s disease. An estimated 80,000 Australians suffer from Parkinson’s that causes severely mobility impairment and affects quality of life. However, relief may soon be at hand. Australian researchers have developed a world’s first blood test that may detect the disease early, which can lead to early treatment.

Parkinson’s takes years to get diagnosed and when it is finally diagnosed, most of the brain cells are already affected. This definitive blood test will limit the number of brain cells destroyed as the disease takes hold. Human trials of the test have provided a 95 percent accuracy rate by picking up the key biological marker in the blood stream of the patient. Thus, the test has the power to drastically improve a patient’s quality of life.

Microbiologist Paul Fisher, who led the research team at La Trobe University, found the discovery extremely exciting.

Funding for an extended trial of this breakthrough blood test is currently being handled by Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and its Australian funding partner, the Shake It Up Australia Foundation. The $640,000 grant will enable trials on 60 patients and they will be conducted in Melbourne.

The test looks for the biological clue that is related to blood’s appetite for oxygen. White blood cells of a Parkinson’s patient consume oxygen four times faster than a normal person’s white blood cells.

“It's a very dramatic difference, which is why it's useful as a biomarker,” said Fisher.

He added that the test returned positive results regardless of the time factor. Human trials were performed on 38 patients where 29 of them had Parkinson’s and their diagnosis time ranged from two to 30 years.

Fisher is so optimistic that he believes the blood test could also prove useful for other neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s, reports La Trobe University.