Scientists yesterday said a new blood and urine test that could detect autism early in children’s urine and blood, was underway.
The researchers from the University of Warwick, United Kingdom (UK), said their test could lead to earlier diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), a major factor that was key in the management of children living with the condition.
A new study, which unveiled this development, was published in the Molecular Autism journal. Autism, or ASD, refers to a range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and non-verbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.
Diagnosing autism over the years, especially in developing countries including Nigeria, has been a difficult task and this, in addition to poor awareness about the condition, poverty and stigma, had contributed to make many cases go undiagnosed until very late when affected children had become adults.
However, scientific evidence showed that early detection of autism and medical intervention, often resulted in good treatment outcomes, enabling many autistic children achieve independent living. Currently, there were no biological tests that can spot autism, which was often diagnosed through behavioural assessments by clinicians.
Often the personnel and equipment for conducting these tests were available in mainly health facilities located mostly in urban centres, leaving thousands of autistic kids from poor background in rural farto- reach communities, unable to access the therapy. In the new study, researchers tested children with and without autism and found higher levels of protein damage in those with the disorder.
They looked for chemical differences in the blood and urine of 38 autistic children and 31 children without the condition, all aged between five and 12. In those with autism they found higher levels of protein damage, particularly in the blood plasma, which they said were associated with illhealth.
Dr. Naila Rabbani from the University of Warwick, who led the study, said the tests could ultimately be used by doctors to diagnose autism earlier in childhood by detecting these markers. Rabbani added that she hoped the tests could also eventually reveal some of the factors that cause autism and improve its diagnosis.
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