Rapid Test for Myocarditis Discovered in Spain

A study published in a prestigious medical journal by Spanish researchers has opened the door to a rapid test for myocarditis. What does this mean? Find out in this article!
Rapid Test for Myocarditis Discovered in Spain

Last update: 02 October, 2021

The availability of a rapid test for myocarditis is a dream for many cardiologists and sports physicians who seek to prevent sudden death. In sports, these incidents are more notorious, although the incidence is the same as in the general population.

After all, if this event happens in a match, it’s likely to be all over the news. However, athletes aren’t the only ones at risk.

A particular situation concerns the physical examinations required to start a sports practice or sports fitness as a requirement for registration in professional competitions. Physicians face the challenge of detecting anomalies that are often impossible to diagnose.

Such is the case of myocarditis…until now.

What is myocarditis?

Myocarditis is the inflammation of the muscular tissue of the heart. This is the myocardium – hence the name of the disorder. Like all inflammation, accumulation of abnormal tissue and impaired function cause it.

Among the causes of myocarditis there are several agents:

  • Autoimmune diseases: systemic lupus erythematosus, for example.
  • Infections: Certain microorganisms settle in the heart or provoke cross-reactions with one’s antibodies, resulting in inflammation of the myocardium. Lyme disease is one of the recognized causes.
  • Toxins: chronic alcohol intoxication, abuse of illegal drugs such as cocaine, and carbon monoxide.
  • Genetics: If a genetic mutation or inheritable disease causes myocarditis, its detection becomes more complex. This is the most worrying cause for physicians. It’s difficult to reach a diagnosis before a serious or even fatal symptom appears.
Checking pulse
Sudden death is an event that disorients everyone. It’s very difficult to prevent.

What is the relationship between myocarditis and sudden death?

The advantage of having a rapid test for myocarditis would be to detect those who are at risk of sudden death. If specialists were to standardize this test, it could even be required as a mandatory test for professional sports, as several physicians are already requesting.

In sudden death, there’s an arrest of the cardiovascular system that isn’t linked specific cause at first. The suspicion always lies in an acute myocardial infarction, which is the most frequent factor in these cardiac arrests.

Confusion between infarction and myocarditis leads to an emergency approach that can even be counterproductive for the patient. When specialists suspect an obstruction of the coronary arteries, doctors immediately perform a catheterization to try to unblock the clot, thrombus, or embolus that’s interrupting blood flow.

This time spent on catheterization is the only way to approach a patient who has fainted with no prior history today. Once specialists verify that there wasn’t an infarction, they suspect another health issue.

A rapid test to rule out myocarditis hasn’t existed up until now. Specialists thought sudden death was due to necrosis of cardiac cells and not by inflammation. Thus, they could establish a rapid approach – although it wasn’t always the correct one.

What’s the point of having a rapid test for myocarditis?

Researchers at the Spanish National Cardiovascular Research Center (CNIC) have published a scientific article in The New England Journal of Medicine that opens the door to a rapid test for myocarditis. Professionals are hoping this is the solution to preventing this sort of sudden death.

Such a test would allow physicians to detect an increased probability of dying of sudden death in some people. This is of particular importance in medical sports medicine, where professional athletes who are subjected to high demands must undergo this test.

At the same time, specialists could perform this rapid test for myocarditis on board an ambulance when transporting a patient. This is useful for cases when people collapse in a public place and the medical teams have no information on them. If they could detect the presence of the indicator biomarkers, then they could immediately find the proper treatment.

What did the researchers discover?

Spanish researchers have detected a microRNA that’s only present in people with myocarditis and circulates in the blood of those affected. It is called hsa-miR-Chr8:96.

Th17 lymphocytes produce the substance, which is activated in myocarditis. This variety of white blood cells participates in the inflammatory process of the myocardium, contributing to the lesser or greater severity of cases.

People who don’t suffer from myocarditis don’t have this biomarker, according to research. Therefore, this test is very useful.

blood tests
Health care teams could perform a rapid test for myocarditis in clinics, but also in an ambulance while transporting the patient.

What other studies are there on this subject?

The study of microRNAs that allow early detection of cardiovascular problems has been going on for some time. Achieving a rapid test for myocarditis is just one of the applications specialists are exploring. the aim is the prevention of sudden deaths in the future.

To avoid myocardial biopsy, researchers published in ESC Heart Failure last year that microRNAs could detect inflammation within the myocardium. This would be particularly useful in the myocarditis that viral infections induce.

On the other hand, also recently, some research groups have proposed the use of microRNAs to predict whether or not an atheroma plaque will rupture soon. Plaque rupture is the pathophysiological mechanism that’s the culprit in the formation of the clots that trigger acute myocardial infarction.

Similarly, lines of scientific studies that have been under development for years are seeking to include microRNA among the complementary methods for diagnosing acute myocardial infarction with electrocardiographic changes. This would be an addition to the classic troponin dosage that is already widely used in emergency rooms.

Finally, you should note that circulating microRNAs in plasma could also be added to the risk characterization of patients with atherosclerosis. This is evidenced by a study published this year in Current Molecular Medicine.

A Spanish test for myocarditis

The possibility of having a fast myocarditis test is tremendously useful for modern medicine. The research published on this subject by the CNIC group will open a new path for exploration. This path aims to improve the detection of almost invisible health problems.

In the world of sports, the standardization of such a test would mean a step forward in the prevention of sudden death. Athletes and sports physicians eagerly await it.

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