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Participants in an Alzheimer's fund-raising walk in Washington D.C. Photo by Dreamstime
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A "major step forward" in developing a blood test to predict the onset of Alzheimer's disease has been announced by British scientists.

The BBC reports that the scientists have identified a set of proteins in the blood which can predict the start of the most common form of dementia with 87 percent accuracy.

Identifying Alzheimer's patients early is critical, as symptoms appear around a decade after the start of the disease.

Doctors believe the failure to develop effective treatment for the disease – 99.6 percent of trials aimed at preventing or reversing the disease between 2002 and 2012 were unsuccessful – is primarily due to late identification.

The findings of the research, which involved more than 1,000 subjects and will be used to improve trials for new dementia drugs, were published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia,.

The researchers were able to tell with 87 percent accuracy which patients with mild cognitive impairment would go on to develop Alzheimer's disease in the next year.
However, they cautioned that the test was not yet ready for widespread use.

"As long as there is no treatment one can question the value of a test," said lead researcher Prof Simon Lovestone from the University of Oxford. "But people come to the clinic because they want to know what's happening to them and I currently can't tell them."

He said he was forced to tell patients to come back in a year and see if their memory problems were any worse.

Dr Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, described the study as a "technical tour de force".