Posted on Oct 29, 2014, 6 a.m.
People genetically predisposed to develop atrial fibrillation, can be identified by a blood test.
Atrial fibrillation, a condition that dramatically increases the risk of stroke, can be difficult to detect as symptoms are often weak or even absent. Furthermore, research has shown that simply being genetically predisposed to atrial fibrillation significantly increases the risk of stroke. Olle Melander, Professor of Internal Medicine, and Gustav Smith, Associate Professor in Cardiology, both from Lund University in Sweden, and colleagues have identified 12 genetic variants in the human genome that increase the risk of atrial fibrillation, meaning that it is now possible to identify people who are genetically predisposed to develop the condition with a blood test. Additional research by the group, of patients already diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, revealed that their risk of stroke was increased by a further 70-80% if they had the risk genes. "One in five people have a genetic weakness that means they have twice as high a risk of developing atrial fibrillation as those with a low genetic risk. This genetic risk is therefore one of the strongest risk factors for atrial fibrillation that we know of in people without overt cardiac disease. It increases the risk as much as high blood pressure, for example", said Professor Melander. "There are also benefits of checking the genetic risk of those who have already been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. The test makes it easier to correctly assess whether anticoagulant medication is necessary to prevent stroke, especially for those under 65"
Tada H, Shiffman D, Smith JG, et al. Twelve-single nucleotide polymorphism genetic risk score identifies individuals at increased risk for future atrial fibrillation and stroke. Stroke. 2014;45:2856-2862.