Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the leading cause of chronic liver disease, affecting approximately one in four people, including children, worldwide.

A new test may soon be available to predict advanced fibrosis in people with NAFLD.

An international research team developed a score, based on the PRO-C3 biological marker, to accurately predict the presence (or absence) of advanced fibrosis in people with NAFLD.

The team, led by both Jacob George, a professor, and Mohammed Eslam, an associate professor, from the Westmead Institute for Medical Research, the Westmead Hospital and the University of Sydney, found that PRO-C3 progressively increases as fibrosis becomes more severe.

George and his team combined this data with routine clinical information such as age, presence of diabetes and platelet count to develop a highly accurate tool to detect advanced fibrosis in NAFLD.

The results exceed existing fibrosis scores, accurately identifying 92 percent of patients with advanced fibrosis.

George said the tool would help to identify patients at greatest risk poor long-term health outcomes.

"Given the high global prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, we need a non-invasive clinical tool to accurately measure fibrosis," George said.

"Our tool will help identify advanced fibrosis in patients, which is crucial, as these are the people who are most likely to develop future health complications," Eslam added. "If NAFLD and fibrosis are detected and treated early, permanent liver damage and other life-threatening diseases can be avoided."

NAFLD occurs when more than five percent of the liver is made up of fatty tissue. As the name suggests, it affects people who drink little to no alcohol.

George said that physical inactivity and obesity were some of the leading causes behind the global rise in NAFLD.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease also increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. It starts with the build-up of fat in the liver and can lead to scarring in the liver. The scarred organ eventually shrinks and the risks of liver failure and cancer increase.

The study investigated 431 patients from across Australia, the U.K. and Japan.

George and his team now hope to validate the score in the general community prior to widespread application and clinical availability.