Novel biomarker test to identify sleep-deprived drivers may help avoid road accidents

Biomarker test shows 99.2% accuracy in detecting sleep-deprived drivers


A team of researchers from Monash University in Australia and the University of Birmingham in the UK has developed a groundbreaking blood test that can accurately detect whether an individual has been awake for 24 hours or more. This test is a significant development in the field of sleep science and has the potential to revolutionize the management of health and safety related to insufficient sleep.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, revealed that the biomarker used in the test accurately predicted when study volunteers had been awake for over 24 hours under controlled laboratory conditions. The test detected whether individuals had been awake for 24 hours with a 99.2% probability of being correct when compared to well-rested samples. Even when considered without the well-rested comparison, the test still maintained a high accuracy of 89.1%.

The implications of this new technology are far-reaching. With approximately 20% of road accidents worldwide caused by sleep deprivation, the researchers hope that this discovery may lead to future tests to quickly and simply identify sleep-deprived drivers. Furthermore, the biomarker could be developed for other situations where sleep deprivation may lead to catastrophic consequences, such as in safety-critical workplaces.

Professor Clare Anderson, the senior author of the study, expressed her excitement about the discovery, stating that it could be transformative for the future management of health and safety relating to insufficient sleep. She also mentioned the potential for a forensic blood test for sleep deprivation, which could be ready in as little as two years, and the possibility of implementing biomarker-based tests in safety-critical industries within five years.

While the current test is based on detecting sleep deprivation of 24 hours or more, the researchers also highlighted the potential for developing a biomarker for limited sleep over the previous night. However, they emphasized that more research is required to combine the time since sleep with the amount of sleep in the predictions. Additionally, further validation of biomarkers and establishing safe levels of sleep to prevent and recover from impairment would be necessary if laws were to change and a sleep deprivation test introduced on the road or in workplaces.

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