Science is taking us one step closer to a blood test that detects autism.
One year after researchers published their work on a physiological test for autism, a follow-up study confirms its success in assessing whether a child is on the autism spectrum. The study shows that a blood sample can help diagnose autism in children, leading to early interventions and more favorable outcome.
Results of the study, which uses an algorithm to predict if a child has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) based on metabolites in a blood sample, appear in the June edition of Bioengineering & Translational Medicine.
“We are able to predict with 88 percent accuracy whether children have autism,” said Juergen Hahn, PhD, a professor at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the lead author.
While diagnosing a child with autism is possible around 18 to 24 months of age, most children typically aren’t diagnosed until after age 4. Earlier diagnoses typically cultivate better outcomes.
In the new research published this year, Hahn’s team wanted to confirm their earlier findings and look for evidence that bolstered their research.
Rather than search for a sole indicator of ASD, the approach Hahn developed uses big data techniques to search for patterns in metabolites relevant to two connected cellular pathways (a series of interactions between molecules that control cell function) with suspected links to ASD.
“We looked at groups of children with ASD independent from our previous study and had similar success. We are able to predict with 88 percent accuracy whether children have autism,” said Hahn. “This is extremely promising.”
“This is an approach that we would like to see move forward into clinical trials and ultimately into a commercially available test.”
It is estimated that approximately 1.7 percent of all children are diagnosed with ASD, characterized as “a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
An estimated 1 in 59 children in the United States has ASD, and being able to spot the condition at the earliest possible age is known to improve outcomes.
Hopefully, this latest study will help move along to the next stage of research and clinical trials, so that a commercial test may soon be available.
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