Dementia has now taken the place of cancer as the second leading cause of death in Australia after heart disease.

A team of scientists in Australia and Japan have developed the world’s first accurate blood test for detecting Alzheimer’s disease, which can identify the presence of the disease up to 20 years before symptoms begin.

The test identifies the build-up of the protein amyloid beta, which is one of the first indications of Alzheimer’s disease.

Professor Colin Masters from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health has been working on Alzheimer’s disease for 30 years and told the ABC that the blood test will make diagnosis easier, cheaper and more broadly available than the current screening options.

He also praised the accuracy of the new test.

“The performance of the blood test is so good, it has accuracy of approximately 90 per cent… If the test is negative, there’s a 95 per cent chance that you’re not going to develop Alzheimer’s within the foreseeable future — that means within 10 or 15 years.”

“I can see in the future, five years from now, where people have a regular checkup every five years after age 55 or 60 to determine whether they are on the Alzheimer’s pathway or not,” said Professor Masters.

James Doecke from the CSIRO was also involved in the research and said that blood had collected from two groups of people for the past 18 months.

“A lot of labs around the world have designed an assay [laboratory test] and tried to find the protein in the blood that we can test easily that will be correlated with the disease, and nobody’s come up until now with something this strong.”

Find out more information on Alzheimer’s disease here.