Saliva, blood tests may soon be used to detect work fatigue

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Detecting tiredness may soon be easier using saliva or blood tests, according to a new study.

The Monash University-led study found specific markers or biomarkers linked to reduced alertness, including eye movement patterns, blood-based metabolites, chemiresistor signal responses and various speed parameters.

Researchers hope these biomarkers could be used to develop a test and be used on the road and in the workplace within the next two to five years.

“We’ve conducted studies in a variety of settings including controlled laboratory environments, occupational settings and on-road driving,” said Professor Shantha Rajaratnam, Sleep Program Leader at Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences, and the Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity (Alertness CRC).

“This is a major step forward in the pathway to developing objective tests of fitness to work or drive.”

Almost 20 percent of all serious motor vehicle accidents in the country are caused by fatigue. In Australian workplaces, over 10,000 serious injuries happen every year because of sleepy workers.

“The problem is people just keep working or driving despite having a hard time staying awake. They don’t recognise their symptoms of drowsiness and the danger these represent,” said Professor Rajaratnam.

“Biomarkers of sleepiness will provide the foundation for more effective road safety laws and public education about when an individual is too sleepy to drive.

The biomarkers will be the basis of technologies and devices development in the future, which could be used to detect fatigue at work and in the road.

“Comparable to alcohol, this might take the form of saliva or blood tests,” said Professor Rajaratnam.

More information about this study can be obtained by contacting the Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences on +61 3 9903 4506 or emailing susan.waterer@monash.edu

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