A saliva test could soon replace blood tests as a means of detecting heart failure. Australian researchers are working on the development of a simple and fast test that could be done at home.

Doctors at QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) in Australia say the diagnosis of heart failure is currently inadequate, although 26 million people are affected by it every year worldwide.

"It's a silent killer because it is asymptomatic in its early stages and people ignore it but heart failure can become life-threatening, if not treated," warned Professor Punyadeera.

The scientists are seeking ways to test saliva for Galectin-3, a protein that is systematically associated with heart failure. The higher the rate of this protein, the more likely the person will need fast medical attention or hospitalization.

Patients who suffer from heart failure cannot walk long distances, they have swollen legs from an accumulation of fluid which predisposes them to ulcers. They feel tired because of the lack of oxygen in the body. Heart failure can also damage the kidneys. Obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and family history are common causes for the condition.

"We hope this test will be able to provide an accurate, quick and easy way for patients to know when they need hospital treatment. The beauty of saliva is that you don't need trained medical staff to collect a sample. You can monitor your heart health in your own home, using non-invasive technology," explained Professor Punyadeera.

The researchers imagine an e-health system that would enable people suffering from heart failure to send their saliva test data by e-mail to their doctor who could advise them on medication levels, thus avoiding a consultation with a cardiologist.

Professor Punyadeera's team will soon be conducting a trial for this saliva test jointly with the Royal Women's Brisbane Hospital and the Prince Charles hospitals.