The death test

A blood test could soon predict your chances of dying in the next five years. Find out how the ‘death test’ works.

Researchers have found biomarkers (lipids, proteins and metabolites) which could identify those at a high risk of dying within five years. To be clear, the test has not been developed, and the researchers don’t know why there is a correlation between these biomarkers and the mortality rate. What they do know is that people with elevated levels of these biomarkers swirling around in their blood are far more likely to die from any number of health issues, from heart disease to cancer, in a short period of time.

The researchers analysed over 100 biomarkers in blood samples from nearly 10,000 randomly selected individuals in Estonia. Of the participants, 500 died within the five-year follow-up period. The blood sample analysis showed that those who died were very likely to have had elevated levels of plasma albumin, alpha-1 acid glycoprotein, very-low-density lipoprotein particle size and citrate. These molecules are normally found in everyone’s blood, so the important factor was the amount found in the samples of the 500 who died.

The study was then repeated with over 7000 participants in Finland. The results were similar, as the same four biomarkers predicted the risk of mortality from a number of causes, including cardiovascular disease, cancer and nonvascular disease.

The results were independent of risk factors such as age, smoking, drinking, obesity, blood pressure and cholesterol. The results did not change when healthy participants were examined.

As study co-author Johannes Kettunen commented in a press release, “What is especially interesting is that these biomarkers reflect the risk for dying from very different types of diseases such as heart disease or cancer. They seem to be signs of a general frailty in the body.”

The researchers are now looking for a link between these biomarkers, to explain the correlation.

You can read the full study at the PLOS Medicine website

If you could take this blood test, would you? Would you really want to know if you were likely to die in the next five years?