Saturday, 2 February 2008

Lab tests: India to have a new reference range


February 2, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 1: Do not get panicky if your medical report shows the result "out of reference" range.
The reference or normal range being followed in laboratories in India for diagnosis of diseases and disorders is in a way "out of context", as it is based on Western
population. Since the genetic make-up, dietary habits and lifestyle of Indians differ vastly from those living in Europe or the Americas, the laboratory reference range arrived at for Western population are not valid for people living in sub-continent.
The Central government has now taken up a massive task to come out with a new reference range for Indian population. The project cost is Rs 500 crore and involves testing of half a million people from across the
country to arrive at the exclusive reference range for the local people. According to senior scientist Dr PM Bhargava, many Indians have been declared "sick" by doctors based on the Western reference range, though they are actually healthy. "We have finally taken up the major task of fixing new reference values for Indian populations based on the local conditions. Once this happens, the laboratory test results will be accurate. But the task involves testing samples of lakhs of people," he said.
The reference range is arrived at after conducting tests on a large number of healthy people from various locations in a country. The results are than averaged and a reference or normal range is arrived at. Only countries in the West have conducted such an exercise and the Indian laboratories have blindly adopted the
Western reference range.
This in other words means that an healthy Indian is made to gulp medicines for the simple reason that he does not fit into the Western range.
Creatinine is measured as a parameter to know how well the kidneys are functioning. It is a natural by-product of muscle activity. Those who have greater muscle mass have more Creatinine levels in the urine than those who are physically weak. Compared with their Western counterparts, Indians are physically weaker as far as muscle mass is concerned. Scientists say thus the Western reference range for Creatinine is not valid for Indians.
The Indian government's initiative on new reference range for Indians will conform to the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry.

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