New Test Can Detect Autism in Children – Keerthana Balamurugan

Autism is a mental condition that sticks to a person throughout their entire lives as there is no cure, and in some cases only through support from specialised behavioural psychologists and therapists can this disorder be managed to an extent. It is a development disability that dictates how a person communicates with other people and the world, having adverse effects towards their communication skills and relationships. Autism affects 1 in every 100 people in the United Kingdom alone. Hence, there are numerous Organisations, Universities and hospitals conducting research on this condition where little breakthroughs constantly occur. The latest research shows one such breakthrough where scientists might have found a new test to detect autism in children and also, it’s causative factors.

Autism is usually present from early childhood therefore parents are most likely the first ones to notice differences in their child compared to other children. Common symptoms include avoiding eye contact, preferring to have a familiar routine, hyperactivity, anxiety and so much more. As Autism is a spectrum, each person affected has a different set of symptoms but the common characteristics include having difficulties with social communication and interaction, and repetitive patterns of behaviours or interests. There are so many ways in which autism affects a person, thus it is hard to set a fixed list of symptoms. Despite it being termed “symptoms”, there are those who put their unique characteristics to good use, for example; using their ability of having an intense interest towards one topic and constantly trying to gain knowledge about that field.

Currently, there is no proven medical test to diagnose autism. For children, a series of specialists have to be seen before a proper diagnosis is made; such as a development paediatrician, child neurologist and a child psychologist. As this is not the best and most accurate way to diagnose autism, scientists at the University of Warwick have and are still conducting research on a revolutionary blood and urine test for children. This has the potential to discover the medical reasoning behind the mental condition, allowing patients to receive appropriate treatment much earlier on.

The scientists collected blood and urine samples from thirty-eight children with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and thirty-one controls. Upon analysing all the samples, it was found that those with ASD had increased advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) and increased oxidation damage marker, dityrosine (DT) in plasma proteins respect to controls. There were other hypotheses that this research confirmed including how mutations of amino acid transporters are common in those with ASD. These chemical differences between controls and those with ASD prove that there is a way to medically test for Autism, thus helping hundreds of thousands of those affected to be properly diagnosed. The next step for the research team at Warwick is to recruit more children in order to further better their diagnostic performance. Hopefully, after this step has completed, we can see this being implemented in clinics and hospitals worldwide.

This test does not only reveal whether a person potentially has ASD but the research behind it can hopefully reveal new causative factors. Research so far has shown that 30-35% of ASD cases were caused by genetic factors and the remaining 65-70% are thought to be caused by a combination of genetic variants, multiple mutations and environmental factors. With this new research, there is hope that new causes can be identified to further our understanding of this mental condition and give us the tools to be able to combat it efficiently and appropriately.

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