A team of Swedish researchers say they have developed a blood test to determine if a child has autism. Their findings come as the number of children affected is rising, and experts struggle to understand the causes and determine a course of treatment.
“What we’ve found is a way to potentially determine whether a child is autistic based on their blood sample,” said Jonas Bergquist of Uppsala University in an article in The Local, an English-language Swedish news website.
The results of the research were published last month in the journal Translational Psychiatry.
recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that 1 in 88 American children suffer from some form of autism, a neurological disorder that can result in difficulty in social interactions, communicating, and unusual behaviors. About 9,000 schoolchildren are affected by some form of autism, according to the Swedish autism association.
No clear cause has yet been determined, but both genetic and environmental factors are believed to have significant roles.
Bergquist is one of a team of researchers from Uppsala and Linnaeus Universities in Sweden engaged in trying to find a “biomarker” – a characteristic unique to individuals with autism.
The researchers used mass spectrometry techniques to profile the proteins in children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and compared them with profiles on non-ASD children. They found three differences unique to children with ASD.
“This novel set of biomarkers allows for a reliable blood-based diagnostic tool that may be used in diagnosis and potentially, prognosis of ASD,” according to their journal article.
Two years ago, researchers at the Boston Children’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, developed a blood test based on a genetic “signature” common to patients with ASD, claiming 85 percent accuracy.
“The signature we obtained supports the hypothesis that a number of mutations, rather than a single mutation, are responsible for the ASDs,” according to Dr. Isaac Kohane, one of the researchers.
It may be another year before this test becomes commercially available.