Feb. 20 (UPI) — British researchers believe they have developed the first blood and urine tests that can confirm autism spectrum disorders in children.
One in 68 children have been identified with some form of ASD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014. The wide spectrum of behavioral problems include difficulty communicating and interacting with others, repetitive behaviors and limited interests or activities.
Doctors diagnose ASD in the first two years of life by looking at a child’s behavior and development but haven’t had a blood or urine test to confirm their diagnoses.
“Our discovery could lead to earlier diagnosis and intervention,” Dr. Naila Rabbani, a researcher of experimental systems biology at the University of Warwick, said in a press release. “We hope 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. This may help us improve the diagnosis of ASD and point the way to new causes of ASD.”
For the study, published in the journal Molecular Autism, researchers recruited children between the age of 5 and 12. Thirty-eight children — 29 boys and nine girls — were diagnosed as having ASD, and a control group of 31 children — 23 boys and eight girls — did not have a diagnosis.
Warwick researchers found chemical differences between the two groups. They found children with ASD had higher levels of the oxidation marker dityrosine and certain sugar-modified compounds called “advanced glycation endproducts” in the protein.
The Warwick researchers and others at the University of Birmingham developed artificial intelligence algorithms to distinguish between ASD, finding they had 90 percent accuracy with those diagnosed with autism and 87 percent accuracy on those without a diagnosis.
“Our test is expected to improve the accuracy of ASD diagnosis from 60-70 percent currently achieved by experts in neurological disorders to approximately 90 percent accuracy and potentially offered at all well-equipped hospitals with or without high level expertise in neurological disorders,” Rabbani told Gizmodo.
The researchers said they plan to repeat the study with others groups of children, including assessing if the test can identify ASD in children younger than 5 years old.