Here’s an interesting development that shows promise. A new paper has been published that introduces a new way of testing patient’s B12. It’s been developed by a team of scientists from Cornell University in the USA and at its heart is a mobile telephone.

‘NutriPhone: a mobile platform for low-cost point-of-care quantification of vitamin B12’ concentrations was published last month (June 2016)* in the Journal Scientific Reports and tells of how doctors can now download an app onto their smartphone, attach a small ‘reader’, take a pin prick blood sample and analyse the B12 status within minutes.

The advantage of this new test is obvious; the doctor can quite easily assess the B12 status of the patient in minutes and will no longer have to wait for the sample of blood, usually involving a nurse and a separate appointment to be sent to the local laboratory to be analysed before the results are sent back. But there are other advantages; this new technology might make doctors keener to determine the B12 status of patients and that might lead to the problem of the likelihood of a patient having their B12 status looked at being dependant on where the patient lives – as I described in my latest book (I had to get that in). Secondly it could bring about an end to the farcical situation that different laboratories set different cut off levels to determine a deficiency (it’s all in there – the book I mean).

There are problems however. The first of these is that nobody really knows what serum B12 level constitutes a ‘deficiency’. And the new test still doesn’t take into consideration the ‘active’ B12 and ‘inactive’ B12 though I suppose this could be addressed.

And we know that some patients will have none of the symptoms of a B12 deficiency with a low or very low level of Serum B12 whilst the opposite can and is often the case with patients who have high or very high B12 serum levels.

Still, it’s progress and it’s good to see that some very clever people are addressing the B12 test issues. Hopefully more work will soon be forthcoming on this issue.

 

*Lee, S. et al. NutriPhone: a mobile platform for low-cost point-of-care quantification of vitamin B12 concentrations. Sci. Rep. 6, 28237; doi: 10.1038/srep28237 (2016).