Study: Blood test detects liver damage risk following paracetamol overdose

Study data published Tuesday in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology suggest that patients who overdose on paracetamol could be helped by a blood test that immediately shows if they are going to suffer liver damage. Study author James Dear remarked that the "tests can identify who will develop liver injury as soon as they first arrive at hospital," adding "this could transform the care of this large, neglected, patient group."

The test detects three different molecules, miR-122, HMGB1 and FL-K18, in the blood that are associated with liver damage. According to the researchers, the test will help doctors identify which patients arriving in hospital need more intense treatment, and "will also help speed the development of new therapies for liver damage by targeting patients most likely to benefit."

In the study, between June 2, 2010, and May 29, 2014, the researchers measured levels of the three markers in 1187 patients who needed intravenous acetylcysteine treatment for paracetamol overdose. The trial's primary endpoint was acute liver injury requiring continued acetylcysteine treatment beyond the standard course. Results showed that the test accurately predicted which patients would develop liver problems, and who would require longer treatment before being discharged. "The test could also help identify patients who can be safely discharged after treatment, helping to free up hospital beds," the researchers said.  

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