Critter Corner: A Urine Test for Alzheimer’s?

Dear Angel,

I heard somewhere that there is a urine test for Alzheimer’s that is being tested? What do you know about this?

Thanks for your help!

Pete Tesst

Dear Pete,

It’s true. There is a urine test being tested and the hope is that one day, doctors may be able to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease this way.

Currently, diagnostic tests for Alzheimer’s disease involve blood tests, spinal taps, and expensive brain scans involving radiation. These methods to diagnose Alzheimer’s are costly, inconvenient, and unsuitable for routine screening. Often, patients receive a diagnosis when it is too late for effective treatment. A non-invasive, inexpensive, and convenient urine test for formic acid could be game changing for early screening.

Researchers in China recently studied 574 people with varying degrees of cognitive function and found formic acid in the urine of people with mild Alzheimer’s symptoms. According to the study, which appears in the journal, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, researchers tested these patients with Alzheimer’s disease of different levels of severity and healthy controls with normal cognition to identify differences in urinary biomarkers. Findings were as follows:

  • The researchers analyzed the participants’ urine and blood samples of the patients and performed psychological evaluations;
  • They found that urinary formic acid can be a marker of cognitive decline that may indicate the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease;
  • A urine test is non-invasive and convenient and would be well suited for large-scale screening;
  • The study found that urinary formic acid levels were significantly increased in all the Alzheimer’s groups compared with the healthy controls, including the early-stage subjective cognitive decline group, and correlated with a cognitive decline.

“Urinary formic acid showed an excellent sensitivity for early Alzheimer’s screening,” said the authors. “The detection of urine biomarkers of Alzheimer’s is convenient and cost-effective, and it should be performed during routine physical examinations of the elderly.”

Hopefully, one day, a simple, inexpensive urine test could be used on a large-scale to diagnose and screen people for Alzheimer’s disease early on when treatment might still provide some benefit. Further research is needed to understand the link between Alzheimer’s and formic acid.

Hope this helps!


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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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