The tests would identify those with an inherited cholesterol disorder, which increases the risk of heart disease.
One in 500 children is affected by the genetic disorder, ‘familial hypercholesterolaemia’, which means that fat in the body does not break down in the usual way and accumulates in the blood, sometimes leading to a heart attack in a victim’s teens.
Researchers at Barts and the London Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of London analysed thousands of children affected by the genetic disorder, and found screening was most effective (88%) in early childhood, from 1 to 9 years.
The team suggested the best time to carry out the tests was when toddlers visited their GPs for routine vaccinations at 15 months. Parents of affected children would also be tested and treated.
David Wald, a consultant cardiologist at the University of London, said: “Once an affected child is identified, their parents would also be screened, since, given the inheritance of this disorder, for every affected child there would be one affected parent.
“Treatment, such as statin drugs, could start immediately in the affected parent, reducing their risks and be delayed in the child until adulthood.”
Dr Tony Wierzbecki, chairman of Heart UK’s medical scientific and research committee, said in theory it was a good idea although tests were probably even more accurate in 4 to 6 year olds.