A simple new test for vitamin B12 deficiency has been developed

November 7, 2014

Researchers in Canada have developed a novel method to test for vitamin B12 deficiency with a single drop of blood.

94 healthy young women were tested for vitamin B12 deficiency based on a single drop of blood collected from a finger prick, which was blotted and dried overnight on a card consisting of filter paper (1). The new dried blood spot card analysis, measuring the amount of methylmalonic acid (MMA), an indicator of a person’s vitamin B12 level, showed to be very sensitive. The method could also have a significant clinical application. The test is sensitive enough to measure the vitamin B12 status of anyone, including newborn babies and large swaths of the general population. It has the potential to be added to newborn screening programs. Vitamin B12 deficiency, if not detected and treated early, can cause delayed brain development, slow learning and digestion problems in babies.

The researchers commented that this minimally invasive approach helps to measure deficiency in an easier and more convenient way, especially in large samples of people. The method simplifies blood sample collection for researchers in rural or remote areas where sophisticated lab equipment is unavailable. Found in meat and dairy products, vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient and is vital for a healthy nervous system. In developing countries, deficiency is as high as 50 or 80% of the population. Treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency includes injections, dietary supplements or dietary change.

References

  1. Schroder T. H. et al. Methylmalonic Acid quantified in dried blood spots provides a precise, valid, and stable measure of functional vitamin B-12 status in healthy women. J Nutr. 2014; 144(10):1658–1663.