Medical researchers – led by Greek Australian Professors Stan Skafidas and Christos Pantelis – have uncovered an early genetic test to predict a child’s risk of autism. This is the first known blood test of its kind to indicate whether or not a child is likely to develop autism. This way, doctors can detect and treat the disorder earlier.
The research team from the University of Melbourne said this will also reduced the burden that this disorder causes children.
As it stands one in 150 Australian children now autistic in Australia, this has the potential for every child to be routinely screened at six months, but Professor Skafidas told Channel Nine this test is “nowhere near as accurate to be used pre-natally”.
Professor Skafidas said the study of more than 7000 US children found 237 genetic markers for autism spectrum disorder in 146 genes. Researchers found that while some of the markers increased the risk of ASD, many protected a person from developing it. He said the protective markers could one day allow researchers to try to develop drugs to treat the disorder, which affects approximately one in 150 births.
The test involved measuring both the genetic markers that protect and contribute to the risk of ASD. A higher score increased the individual’s risk of developing the disorder.
The current accuracy rate meant a third of children would be incorrectly diagnosed. The genetic test could be available within five years.