Researchers say an experimental blood test has shown promise as a novel way to diagnose autism in children.
The test appears to be nearly 98 percent accurate in kids between the ages of 3 and 10, the researchers claimed.
“The test was able to predict autism, regardless of where on the spectrum an individual was,” said study co-author Juergen Hahn, referring to varying degrees of autism severity.
“Additionally, the test indicates with very good accuracy the severity of certain autism-related conditions,” added Hahn, who is head of the department of biomedical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, N.Y.
The study was small, involving just 83 children with autism and 76 children without the disorder. More follow-up research is planned, the researchers said.
And a senior official with a leading autism advocacy group said he had some concerns about the new study.
In the United States, it’s estimated that 1 in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder. This is the term for a range of conditions that may involve problems with social skills, speech and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors, according to Autism Speaks. Boys seem at higher risk than girls.
The current standard approach to diagnosing autism typically entails a consensus drawn from a group of medical professionals, including pediatricians, psychologists, occupational therapists, and speech and language experts.
But the new blood test takes a different approach, focusing instead on identifying the presence of key metabolism markers.
To test the idea, the study authors collected blood samples from all 159 children. The analysis turned out to be nearly flawless in diagnosing autism cases, the researchers said. It was also more than 96 percent accurate in identifying those children who did not have autism, the researchers added.