Credit: Medical Only

In Australia, the diagnosis of Alzheimer's - that affects the lives of 150,000 Australians - is made only after the symptoms have appeared.

The good news is Belgian researchers have found a way to predict the condition several years prior to its onset, through spinal fluid tests.

The study involved performing lumbar punctures on 400 participants to measure the levels of the proteins amyloid and TAU in their spinal fluid.

Alzheimer's disease is trademarked by amyloid plaques that gather between nerve cells and toxic accumulation of the protein TAU inside the nerve cells -both of which destroy the nerve cells.

The signature for Alzheimer's in the spinal fluid was identified after assessing data from nearly 500 older adults.

The study findings published in the journal of Archives of Neurology also revealed that prediction of the disease's future onset using spinal fluid can also be made in healthy people too.

Professor Colin Masters, director of Melbourne University's Mental Health Research Institute said similar work is under way in Australia in the effort to predict Alzheimer's before its onset through identification of biomarkers in the blood.

Early diagnosis of Alzheimer's is crucial in the future for developing treatments to stop the progression of the disease, said Prof Masters.

Jack Sach, acting chief executive of Alzheimer's Victorial said internationally, enormous investments have been made to develop such treatments and a breakthrough is likely.

He said they are on to developing a low-cost method to screen people who might develop Alzheimer's to be involved in the future breakthrough treatment.