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New Biological Method to Diagnose Autism Is Highly Accurate [VIDEO]

Update Date: Mar 18, 2017 12:01 PM EDT
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Why sisters may be the key to understanding autism risk

Researchers have discovered a new means to predict whether a child has autism based on biomarkers, measurable substances present in the blood that indicates some conditions such as diseases and environmental exposure.

With the alarming increase in the number of autism spectrum disorder diagnoses, there is a growing need for methods that allow the condition to be detected early among children. The current method of evaluation is done by looking for behavioral signs in children. Only when parents notice unusual behaviors in their child are they prompted to seek an assessment by specialists such as developmental pediatricians and psychologists.

The researchers, led by Juergen Hahn and Daniel Howsmon, looked into the data from another study at the Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute. Blood samples of children aged three to 10, consisting of 83 children with autism and 76 children without the condition, were observed. The concentration of substances known to be altered in people with a risk of ASD, folate-dependent one-carbon (FOCM) metabolism and transsulfuration (TS) pathways, were measured, the Medical News reported.

The study published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology revealed the new tool identified 97.6 percent of the children with autism. It also correctly identified 96.1 percent of the children who did not have an ASD diagnosis.

The researchers believe that no other methods for classification using biomarkers have reached this level of accuracy. To confirm the results, further studies are needed.

In 2014, one in 68 children was on the autism spectrum. Research points out to a number of factors - not just one - may lead to the disorder.

Many believe that some children could be genetically predisposed to develop autism. Recent discoveries reveal that certain gene mutations are associated with the disorder.

Environmental factors, especially before and during birth, may further increase the risk of autism. For instance, children whose mothers took prenatal vitamins with folic acid before and after conception have a lower risk of having autism.

The parents' age, maternal illness during pregnancy, oxygen deprivation as a result of difficult childbirth, and a host of other factors may also have an effect, according to Autism Speaks.

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