This Test Could Diagnose a Heart Attack in 10 Minutes, Researchers Say

The new test could bring the time for a heart attack diagnosis down from an hour.

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You might know the signs of a heart attack—but can you really be sure that you're having one? After all, there are plenty of other, more benign conditions that could produce the same symptoms. While it's safest to get checked out by a medical professional if there's even a chance you're experiencing a cardiovascular event, researchers are now looking into the possibility of an at-home test that could give you a clear answer quickly. One study is pointing to a saliva test that would tell you if you're having a heart attack in just 10 minutes.

On Aug. 26, researchers from the European Society of Cardiology announced their discovery that a new test could allow patients to spit in a tube and find out if they're experiencing a heart attack. The test looks for cardiac troponin, a protein that gets released when the heart muscle is damaged, as it is during a heart attack. The current blood test for cardiac troponin takes at least an hour, while the proposed saliva test could get results significantly faster.

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"There is a great need for a simple and rapid troponin test for patients with chest pain in the pre-hospital setting," study author Roi Westreich, MD, of Israel's Soroka University Medical Centre, said in a statement. "Currently troponin testing uses blood samples. In this preliminary study we evaluated the feasibility of a novel method using saliva."

The good news is, researchers were able to determine some level of cardiac troponin in the saliva samples from patients with heart muscle injuries. However, there was a notable difference between untouched samples and processed samples—the latter of which had other normal proteins found in saliva removed. Of the processed saliva samples, 84 percent tested positive for troponin, but only 6 percent of the unprocessed samples did.

cropped shot of an unrecognizable man holding his chest in pain while sitting on the bed at home
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As it stands, there's no existing test that would allow patients experiencing chest pain to spit in a tube and find out if they're having a heart attack: For this study, researchers had to modify existing blood tests and process the saliva to get any results. But the fact that they were ultimately able to find cardiac troponin in saliva bodes well for the future of this kind of testing. Down the line, people may be able to purchase a rapid at-home test that would, in fact, give them a clear answer in 10 minutes.

Now that researchers are aware of the possibilities, Westreich says that the next step will be creating a specified test. "This prototype will be tailor-made for processed saliva and is expected to be more accurate than using a blood test on saliva," he said. "It will be calibrated to show positive results when saliva troponin levels are higher than a certain threshold and show a yes/no result like a pregnancy test." And for more ways to stay heart healthy, discover these 30 Warning Signs Your Heart Is Trying to Send You.

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