Feb. 9 (UPI) -- Researchers at the National Institutes of Health said they've developed a new test to detect Parkinson's disease and dementia with Lewy bodies, shaving days off the wait time of existing tests.
The NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases created the test by modifying one used for the early diagnosis of prion diseases, a group of neurodegenerative disorders caused by transmissable pathogens.
For Parkinson's disease, the test detects levels of Lewy bodies in spinal fluid. Lewy bodies are the abnormal clumping of alpha-synuclein, a protein.
Parkinson's disease and dementia with Lewy bodies both resemble prion diseases, which result in the deterioration of brain functions. But Parkinson's disease is about 1,000 times more common than prion diseases, and Lewy body dementia is even more common.
Scientists conducted the test on 60 cerebral spinal fluid samples, including 12 from people with Parkinson's, 17 from people with dementia with Lewy bodies, and 31 controls, which included 16 people with Alzheimer's disease. The test eliminated all 31 controls and correctly diagnosed the samples with Parkinson's and dementia with Lewy bodies with 93 percent accuracy, the study indicates.
The NIH said the results from the test were available within two days, sooner than other related tests that take up to 13 days.
"Early and accurate diagnoses of these brain disorders is essential for developing treatments and identifying patients eligible for clinical trials," NIH researchers said in a news release. "The diseases typically progress for years before symptoms appear, and once they do, distinguishing one disease from another can be difficult."