Wednesday, 23 May 2018 | News today: 0

New study suggests blood test can help diagnose autism in children

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A study published in the Molecular Autism journal concludes that a blood test could help diagnose autism in children by detecting early warning signs.

Scientists at the University of Warwick in the UK say it is almost 90% accurate and could be available to doctors within a year.

Their test, which delivers a result within four hours, is believed to pick up damage in the blood, which shows brain problems linked to autistic symptoms.

Study leader Dr Naila Rabbani, a reader of experimental systems biology at the University of Warwick, says they have been working for five years on this test, believing it would be beneficial to children and their parents to identify the problem and provide intervention therapy at an earlier point.

“More research is needed to identify if the same biomarkers are found in younger children, but we are determined to take this forward to the level where it could be available on the NHS,” says Dr Rabbani.

The researchers worked with the University of Bologna in Italy to recruit 38 children with autism spectrum disorder, aged five to 12, along with 31 healthy children of the same age.

Researchers found autistic children have damage to the proteins in their blood plasma, caused by sugar and harmful molecules containing oxygen.

They used blood and urine test results to develop systems for a computer to diagnose autism based on biological signs.

The best system was correct for 36 out of the 38 children with autism and had an overall accuracy of up to 88%.

It produces a means of determining whether autism is likely to be present, and researchers hope to try it next on two-year-olds.

Autistic children are principally diagnosed with judging speech and communication problems, which proves to be difficult for doctors as autism affects people differently.

Rabbani says their discovery could lead to earlier diagnosis and intervention and hopes the tests will also reveal new causative factors.

“With further testing, we may reveal specific plasma and urinary profiles or fingerprints of compounds with damaging modifications.”

Autism spectrum disorders, such as Asperger’s syndrome, mainly affect a person’s social interaction and communication, with symptoms including speech disturbances, compulsive behaviour, hyperactivity and anxiety.