A team of scientists in the UK and Italy are getting close to developing an autism blood test, which could have huge implications on the diagnosis and treatment of the developmental disorder. A test of this kind has been sought-after by researchers for years. The blood test could potentially diagnose children as young as two as having disorders on the autism spectrum. However, the testing is in the very early stages.

Currently, children are diagnosed with disorders on the autism spectrum following a series of behavioral tests.

But, these tests take time, and the results may not be conclusive. An autism blood test could potentially eliminate the need for standard testing and provide a faster, more definitive diagnosis.

The test looks for certain damaged proteins in blood and urine. These proteins are typically higher in children with disorders on the autism spectrum. A team from the University of Warwick in the UK and the University of Bologna in Italy tested 38 children with autism, and 31 without. The children were between the ages of 5 – 12.

In blood and urine samples taken from both groups of kids, the kids with autism disorders had more protein damage.

Paul Thornalley, a professor in systems biology at the University of Warwick, co-led the study. He says, “We have found that the power of measuring damaged proteins to the brain may be a cause for a development of autism.” However, the study is quite limited. The sample sizes were small, and there were no comparison groups. In order to determine if the results are conclusive, the study would have to be replicated on a larger number of children.

Still, the limited data shows promise. Researchers are hoping that by testing larger numbers of kids, they will be able to uncover new causes of autism. The research may also be able to determine if treatments of autism disorders are effective. Currently, approximately 3.5 million people in the U.S. are on the autism spectrum.

(Image: iStock/gutaper)