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Breakthrough in the early diagnosis of autism?
Scientists have now taken the first steps to develop a novel blood and urine test for autism that can quickly and effectively lead to early diagnosis of the disease in the future. The test already showed initial success in tests on children.
The University of Warwick researchers are currently developing a test that can detect a so-called autism spectrum disorder. This test only requires blood and urine from the patient to make a successful diagnosis. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Molecular Autism".
Higher levels of protein damage in sick children
In their research, the experts examined children with and without autism. With the new test, they found higher levels of protein damage in the sick children. In the blood of those affected, more compounds could be found that arise from spontaneous oxidation and glycation. The researchers say the test could ultimately lead to the earlier discovery of the condition. The disease is usually difficult to diagnose and many sufferers are diagnosed with a delay.
Autism is difficult to diagnose
Autism affects behavior and especially social interaction, but unfortunately the condition is very difficult to identify and is usually not diagnosed before the age of two, often much later. There are currently no biological tests that can detect the condition. So far, the disease has been diagnosed by evaluating the behavior of medical professionals.
Subjects were between five and eleven years old
For the current study, the researchers looked for chemical differences in the blood and urine of 38 autistic children and 31 children without this disease. The participants were all between five and twelve years old. The experts analyzed the results with the help of an algorithm. In the children with an autism spectrum disorder, the scientists increasingly identified protein damage (especially in the blood plasma) that is generally associated with poor health.
Sensitivity to important markers was 92 percent
Increased concentrations of compounds characteristic of autism (tyrosine dimer dityrosine and so-called advanced glycation end product) were effective evidence of autism diseases. The sensitivity of the two markers to the disease was 92 percent and the so-called specificity was 84 percent, the researchers explain. If doctors looked for these markers, they could diagnose autism earlier in childhood, explains study author Dr. Naila Rabbani from the University of Warwick.
Further studies with younger children are needed
The next step is to review the study results with other groups. The necessary method for this is available, now only the results have to be confirmed in other studies, adds the expert. Further studies should be done on younger children, perhaps on subjects one or two years old. Then the results obtained must be validated in a larger cohort, after which the new test could be ready for screening. Hopefully, the test can eventually uncover some of the factors that cause autism and improve diagnosis, says the doctor.
Clinical questioning and observation the best form of diagnosis?
It is apparently not yet known whether this technique can distinguish the difference between autism, ADHD, anxiety, or other similar conditions, critics of the study say, because the study examined only a small group of people. The best way to diagnose autism is therefore still a clinical questioning and observation.
There is an increasing number of autism diagnoses
The number of diagnosed cases of autism has increased significantly in the past 20 years, the reason for this seems to be more accurate diagnostic methods. The disease is generally diagnosed more frequently in men than in women. There is no cure for the condition yet, but interventions are available. (as)