Researchers at The University of Auckland have developed
a test for Long QT syndrome, a cause of sudden cardiac death, which
can now be routinely used by specialist clinicians from around New
Zealand and Australasia.
Long QT syndrome is an inherited disorder that can cause sudden cardiac
arrhythmia, a significant cause of sudden unexpected death in young
people. Each year, around 100 New Zealanders under the age of 40 die
suddenly and unexpectedly. About 15% of sudden deaths in 1 to 35 year
olds and at least 10% of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) cases
are thought to be attributable to Long QT syndrome.
The new tests, developed by a team of researchers at the University’s
Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, allows specialist clinicians
to test patients who have suffered from sudden cardiac episodes and
their family members to identify those with a defective Long QT gene.
Victims of sudden death can be tested for the condition after death
if a small blood sample is saved at time of post-mortem. Most cardiac
arrhythmias, rapid chaotic hearth rhythms, in people positive for a
Long QT gene defect are preventable by a simple medication routine
or implantation of a defibrillator pacemaker.
At an event tonight, researchers, clinicians and advocates of Long
QT testing will celebrate the development of Long QT testing in the
University and its successful transfer to the clinical arena via provision
of services for New Zealand by LabPLUS at Auckland City Hospital. Attendees
will include families of sudden cardiac victims and representatives
from Auckland District Health Board, the University, and the charitable
organisation Cure Kids which funded the research and the facilitation
of clinical testing at LabPLUS.
“ These genetic tests are of proven value in saving lives
through early recognition of Long QT syndrome and in guiding clinical
Dr Jon Skinner of Starship Children’s Hospital.
transfer from university to clinical laboratory signifies that the
service is responding to evidence-based research and is starting
to take the prevention of young sudden deaths seriously. This is
forward step. Lives will be saved as a direct consequence of this
wise and cost effective action.”
“ We are excited that our research has
developed a robust clinical test and that cardiac specialists are
keen and willing to implement
it in their diagnosis and management of patients,” said
Associate Professor Andrew Shelling of the University’s Faculty
of Medical and Health Sciences.
“ Our ongoing research is looking
at other genetic causes of sudden cardiac events, and we hope the use
and future tests, will reduce the incidence of sudden death dramatically.”
“ The results from the genetic tests will also benefit the
research community by opening up new avenues of biomedical investigation,
the aim of translating this towards best clinical practice for patients
and prevention of sudden death in the young,” added Professor
Mark Rees, the Cure Kids Visiting Professor of CardioGenomics at Auckland
City Hospital and Honorary Senior Fellow at the University.