An international team of researchers led by scientists from the Warwick University in the United Kingdom have developed a highly-reliable new test for autism which may have an exceptional level of accuracy.
Autism spectrum disorder is one of the fast-growing health complications in children throughout the world. It is a condition that affects behavior, cognition, and social interaction skills.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, around one in sixty-eight children display symptoms of autism spectrum disorder.
Can ASD be diagnosed?
Looking at the condition’s developmental nature, autism spectrum disorder may have an early onset. Though, in the typical cases, it takes time for a child to show signs of having the health problem. It is believed that an early diagnosis is not really possible.
This is why developing a new, chemistry-based test was necessary. Early diagnosis means the affected children are able to get the care and treatment on time. Until now no such test was available.
But now, a team of researchers led by Dr. Naila Rabbani, who is a reader of experimental biology at the University of Warwick, claims to have designed a test which can help in the detection of early autism spectrum disorder by identifying the related protein changes in the urine and the blood.
The study conducted on the use and accuracy of the test by the researchers has been published in the journal Molecular Autism.
What did the study include?
A group of 38 children was recruited in the study, all of who were between the ages of 5 and 12 and had previously been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder as well as another group of 31 children who had no diagnosis of ASD.
Differences between the children suffering from autism spectrum disorder and children without the condition or neurotypical children were noted by the Dr. Rabbani and the team.
Links between autism spectrum disorder and damage in some specific proteins in the blood’s plasma as well as the fluid that carries the red blood cells and white blood cells were found.
Consequently, the scientists developed various urine and blood tests. The one with the highest level of accuracy detected that the children with autism spectrum disorder had an increase in levels of compounds referred to as dityrosine.
Another class of compounds cited as advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) was also seen to be in higher levels in the patients with ASD.
AGEs are a product of glycation – the process in which sugars and amino acids which are an essential part of proteins combine. The compound dityrosine is, on the other hand, one of the markers of oxidative damage.
The scientists used this information and added it to a computer algorithm, thereby making a diagnostic test with a ninety-two percent sensitivity. The ‘sensitivity’ of a test refers to its capability to identify a disease accurately.
How significant is this new test?
The lead author of the study Dr. Rabbani states that the test may be of great use in the earlier diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder in children along with faster medical intervention and treatment.
Further research on the test may even lead to the discovery of new causative factors. The team suggests that more testing may even help in knowing specific urinary and plasma profiles, also known as fingerprints, of the compounds which can have harmful alterations.
On the contrast, some researchers have expressed their skepticism towards the new test.
For example, Dr. Max Davie, who is an assistant officer for health promotion at Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health in the UK says while the results may be promising, there is still a long way to go for a ‘new test’ for autism.