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Simple skin test could significantly speed up Parkinson’s disease diagnosis times, study reveals

A “simple skin test” could more accurately identify Parkinson’s disease than existing, more complex methods, a major study has revealed.

The research, published in the Movement Disorders scientific journal, explores how a “chemical assay” could detect in skin samples the clumping of proteins commonly associated with the neurodegenerative disease.

Under existing methods, medical professionals rely on physical symptoms to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. However, the disease can be easily misdiagnosed or missed altogether.

However, the new skin test could be key in increasing early diagnosis rates and treatment outcomes, said study author Professor Anumantha Kanthasamy.

“Since there’s no easy and reliable test available for the early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease at present, we think there will be a lot of interest in the potential use of skin samples for diagnosis,” he said.

To carry out the study, the researchers analysed 50 skin samples, half of which came from patients with Parkinson’s disease and the other half from participants known not to have the disease.

The protein assay method was able to correctly diagnose 24 out of 25 samples, while it was able to correctly rule out Parkinson’s disease in 24 out of 25 of the control samples, indicating a “tremendously high sensitivity and specificity which is critical for a diagnostic test”.

Commenting on the study, Professor Kanthasamy said: “The clinical diagnostic accuracy for early-stage PD has been quite poor, only around 50-70 per cent. 

“And since clinical trials really need to be done at an early stage to avoid further brain damage, they have been critically hampered because they have been including large percentages of people who may not actually have the disease

“Improving clinical diagnostic accuracy is, in my view, the very first thing we need to do in order to find new useful treatments for PD.”

The latest statistics suggest around one in every 37 people alive today will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s in their lifetime.

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