Genetic ancestry test more accurately identifies high risk stroke patients

A genetic ancestry test was more accurate than conventional self-reports of race, cultural identity or ethnicity at identifying patients at risk for bleeding stoke. Findings were presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2018.

As the fifth-leading cause of death in the U.S., stroke and its risk factors are inheritable as well as being dependent on the environment. In this study, researchers examined the Ethnic/Racial Variations of Intracerebral Hemorrhage (ERICH) study and the impact a genetic ancestry test could have on identifying high risk patients.

"Treatment and prevention of risk factors represent the most crucial components of efforts to limit the burden of stroke," said study lead author Sandro Marini, MD, post-doctoral research fellow in the Center for Genomic Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "Accurate identification of patients at higher risk is the first step towards tailored prevention strategies."

A total of 4,935 patients participated in the ERICH study, which aimed to identify risk factors for intracerebral hemorrhages and strokes caused by ruptured blood vessels. Participants were 35 percent black, 35 percent white and 30 percent Hispanic. Researchers then compared self-reports of race and ethnicity to a genetic ancestry test in identifying those high risk patients.

Results showed the genetic ancestry test to be more likely to identify patients with at least four risk factors for stroke including diabetes, high blood cholesterol, plaque buildup and irregular heartbeat.

"Genetic ancestry represents an accurate way to control for both genetic and environmental exposures that vary across races and ethnicities, in association with risk factors for intracerebral hemorrhage," Marini said. "Limiting our definitions of race and ethnicity to standard self-reports leaves out valuable information that could be used to better predict risk of at least some complex diseases."