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Test flags liver damage risk after paracetamol overdose

People who overdose on paracetamol could be helped by a blood test that shows immediately if they are going to suffer liver damage, researchers say

People who overdose on paracetamol could be helped by a blood test that shows immediately if they are going to suffer liver damage, researchers say.

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The test detects levels of specific molecules in the blood and helps doctors identify which patients arriving in hospital need more intense treatment, they say.

The researchers at the Universities of Edinburgh and Liverpool say the test could speed up the development of new therapies for liver damage by targeting patients most likely to benefit.

Needing longer treatment

They measured levels of three different molecules in the blood that are associated with liver damage – called miR-122, HMGB1 and FL-K18 – among 1,000 patients across the UK who needed hospital treatment for paracetamol overdose.

50,000

people are admitted to hospital each year in the UK due to paracetamol overdose.

Source: NHS Digital

Previous studies have shown that levels of these markers are elevated in patients with liver damage long before current tests can detect a problem.

They found that the test can accurately predict which patients are going to develop liver problems, and who may need to be treated for longer before they are discharged.

Lead researcher James Dear said: ‘These new blood tests can identify who will develop liver injury as soon as they first arrive at hospital. This could transform the care of this large, neglected, patient group.’


Dear J et al (2017) Risk stratification after paracetamol overdose using mechanistic biomarkers: results from two prospective cohort studies. The Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology doi.org/10.1016/S2468-1253(17)30266-2

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